Risk Communication and Community Engagement Driving Innovations in the Covid-19 Response in South Asia
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the health and livelihoods of people in South Asia, revealing stark vulnerabilities of health systems and exacerbating pre-existing social and economic complexities. Efforts to curtail the pandemic saw the region plunge into an economic slowdown and at the same time created devastating secondary impacts and hardships for frontline workers, governments, vulnerable community members, and the general public.
A UNICEF report titled, “Lives Upended”1 highlighted the profound impact of the virus on the lives of children in the region, warning that the pandemic risked wiping out decades of progress on children’s health, education and other priorities. Nevertheless, the report also noted the opportunities the crisis presented to expose and tackle some of the longstanding challenges facing children in the region.
UNICEF was instrumental in supporting national and sub-national Governments to implement Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) interventions in collaboration with other partners. This series of case studies aims to highlight key pillars of RCCE responses in the eight South Asian countries; Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The case studies delve into key strengths of each country’s RCCE response to collectively demonstrate the overall impact of the RCCE response in the region.
The main objectives of UNICEF-supported RCCE interventions in South Asia are to a) reach the widest number of people with essential and reliable Covid-19 prevention information while advocating for the continuation of regular health-seeking behaviors and b) to engage people, communities and their organizations in taking action against the spread of Covid-19 while safeguarding children and women against violence and deteriorating mental health stemming from lockdown measures.