A community-led program to empower villages
Covid-free Village is a community-led program that takes responsibility for protecting villages from the pandemic. The objective is to empower villages to take ownership for creating a people’s movement to prevent and contain the pandemic by forming Village Task Forces. The program offers flexible, need-based interventions to effectively deal with the dynamic pandemic situation in villages. Covid-free Village is implemented as a government program with institutional and ecosystem support at all levels. The program reflects BJS’ deep and lasting commitment to fight Covid-19, and other pandemics in future.
Covid-free Village demonstrates sustainable outcomes in “one village” that can be taken to scale across the country. Its frameworks, processes, roles and responsibilities, training modules, audio-visuals, BCC/IEC material, knowledge and program management systems have all been developed to support implementation at scale. The program is informed by BJS’ four decades of rich and extensive grassroots experience in disaster response, health, water conservation, education and social development.
Introduction to Covid-free Village Program [Hindi 14.21 mins]
Theory Of Change
Empowering Communities for Covid-Resilience
Village Task Force conducting a monthly review meeting
Communities have inherent capacity to find solutions to their problems. Every village has self-motivated people ready to contribute their time and efforts for the well-being of their communities. However, they often lack a platform, guidance, training and tools to facilitate leadership for collective action.
The Covid-free Village program identifies, motivates and empowers such community champions, giving them an opportunity and skills to assume leadership for Covid risk-reduction in their villages, creating a people’s movement.
Participation of Villages
Participation of villages in the program is demand-driven. The program is initially showcased to all Sarpanchs in a Taluka by the Taluka Administration. Subsequently, Gram Panchayats desirous of joining the program submit applications to the Taluka Administration, declaring their commitment to implement the program by forming/activating Village Task Forces as per program guidelines.
Village Task Forces
Villages participating in CFV program take responsibility for forming five Task Forces to prepare them for Covid risk-reduction, prevention and containment. The Sarpanch, Gramsevak, Talathi and village seniors together implement a range of activities to create an enabling environment for Covid risk-reduction. Village Task Forces serve as effective grassroots mechanisms for collective action to implement Covid prevention and containment measures.
Preparedness, prevention and containment measures implemented by Village Task Forces
Flexible Implementation Approach
The program uses an ecosystem galvanization approach to implement need-based interventions even in the midst of strict Covid restrictions imposed by authorities. It uses technology, standardized processes and multiple channels for training and capacity building of grassroots stakeholders that can be scaled in thousands of villages. This flexible, multi-stakeholder approach enables the program to significantly decrease the load on the government system by largely taking care of demand-side interventions and linking them with government schemes and services.
If and when there is a spike in new infections in a given geography, Village Task Forces will immediately respond to the situation by activating the required interventions such as tracing, tracking, testing and treatment of cases. An ongoing process of needs assessment through monthly review meetings of Village Task Forces is integral to this flexible approach. Village Task Forces receive training on the entire range of interventions right at the start of the program to ensure preparedness of villages for responding to emerging scenarios.
Harnessing Ecosystem Support
The program galvanizes support from the State Government, District and Taluka Administrations to ensure end-to-end institutional linkages. It harnesses the power of partnerships to mobilize impact sector players for supporting strategy, implementation, capacity-building, grassroots handholding and monitoring. A network of committed BJS volunteer entrepreneurs support advocacy and media engagement. In villages, Task Forces serve as effective community mechanisms for Covid prevention and containment.
Strategy for Sustainable Impact at Scale
The Covid-free Village program is intended to be scaled across the country. BJS has developed the strategy for scaling the program based on its four decades of grassroots experience working with communities and the government by galvanizing the ecosystem. The scale strategy of the program is informed by this grassroots experience. Additionally, as has been the experience for the past two years, preparedness appears to be the only sustainable solution to the pandemic. The scale strategy of the program is also informed by this learning.
Another unique learning that has influenced BJS’ strategy for scale is the need for the program to be agile and effective even during a complete lockdown imposed by authorities. Similarly, the program seeks to mobilize universities, colleges, NSS student volunteers and other ecosystem players to provide support with a view to decrease the load on government officials who are usually busy during peak of infections. The program design incorporates standard frameworks, processes, capacity building methods, resource material, training content and toolkits to support implementation at scale.
In villages, communities take ownership of the program by forming Village Task Forces and by creating an enabling environment for Covid risk-reduction. Training, capacity building and handholding of village stakeholders are achieved by mobilizing a strong cadre of NSS student volunteers and program officers with approval from the government. BJS’ team of committed volunteer social entrepreneurs ensure local support for the program through their connect with the administration, local leaders, influential persons, opinion makers and the media.
Implementation Case Studies
District Case Study, Pune
The Covid-free Village program is being implemented in Pune district from August 2021 in a phased manner. The program has been extensively piloted in more than 300 villages. A preliminary assessment has been conducted in the district to understand stakeholder acceptability, and enablers and barriers in empowering village communities for Covid risk-reduction. The program is implemented in collaboration with the District Administration.
State Case Study, Karnataka
The Government of Karnataka has approved the Covid-free Village program for implementation in more than 29000 villages across the state. The program has been initiated from November 2021, first in three districts – Belgaum, Raichur and Yadgir; and subsequently scaled to six other districts – Chamrajnagar, Chitradurga, Davangere, Hassan, Mandya and Tumkur.
Dr. Manoj Jain, MD, MPH
Rollins School of Public Health,
Emory University, Atlanta
Dr. Jain is a visiting professor and infectious diseases expert, a writer and a national leader in healthcare quality improvement. He did his public health training at the Harvard School of Public Health, has conducted research on HIV epidemiology and quality improvement, and published numerous scientific articles and books. He is Co-chair at the Collaboration to Eliminate Tuberculosis among Indians (CETI).
Dr. Mahaveer Golechha, MSc, Ph.D.
Indian Institute of Public Health,
Dr. Golechha is associate professor and registrar at IIPH Gandhinagar. He is involved in teaching and research; his areas of expertise being health system and policy, environmental public health, and health & pharmaceutical policy. He leads the Rajasthan health system strengthening initiative with the government and comes with substantial experience in healthcare policy, public health and socio-economic development.