UNICEF launches campaign to curb COVID spread in rural Bihar’s flood-prone districts


Express News Service

PATNA: UNICEF with the support of its NGO partners has rolled out a first-of-its-kind initiative called ‘Surakshaagrah- Covid Par Halla Bol’ in rural pockets of Bihar’s six flood-prone districts.

Partnering with UNICEF, the Bihar Sewa Samiti, Aga Khan Rural Support Program, (India) and the Ghoghardiha Prakhand Swarajya Vikas Sangh will focus on Supaul, Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, Madhubani, Purnea, and Sitamarhi districts where an estimated population of 3.6 million people face flood fury almost every year.

As the deadly second wave of COVID-19 spreads alarmingly in the state, the initiative will also help the people understand the necessary safety protocols needed to curb the spread of the virus.

“Rapid transmission of COVID-19 in rural areas is really worrisome. Almost 89 per cent of Bihar lives in villages. More than 46 per cent are children and adolescents, who are particularly vulnerable. It is crucial that rural populations including children and youth have the tools of correct information on how to protect themselves, why and how to stay safe at home, how to access healthcare and other critical services in a timely manner— be it emotional and mental well-being, nutrition, education and protection from abuse,” said Nafisa Binte Shafique-CFO Unicef Bihar.

She added that the ‘Surakshaagrah’ is aimed at mobilising individual and community consciousness and responsibility towards fighting the pandemic, and better preparedness for floods, as well as instill hope, mutual support, and preparedness among the people.

Over 600 Suraksha Praharis (Block and Community Mobilisers) are being engaged through partners for this purpose.

The teams will assist the district administration and key line departments in the coordinated rollout of this initiative.

All partner NGOs together with social mobilisation network, (SMNET) have already started working in coordination with the district administration, health, rural development, and other departments.

To address child protection-related issues, they will also coordinate with the child protection structures – block and community child protection committees, as well as the local police.

“The initiative will also orient and mobilise support from PRIs, JeeVika, DRR (Disaster Risk Reduction) catalysts, religious leaders, youth, local artists, media and other stakeholders in effectively implementing all activities,” the UNICEF chief stated.

Unlike the first wave, children have been much more affected this time around.

Communication specialist of UNICEF Nipun Gupta said “COVID-19 has resulted in an increased risk of violence against children besides other problems like missing and unaccompanied children, consequences of the migration crisis, mental health issues, child labour, trafficking, and early marriage. Even during floods, children’s vulnerability increases manifold.”

According to Bihar Health department data, approximately 45,000 children and adolescents have been affected due to COVID-19 between March 18 to May 17 this year. This is around 11 percent of total COVID-19 patients in the state.

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