Welcome to Vol.4 of 'Behaviour Change Matters’. A number of interesting initiatives are covered  using innovation to improve Maharashtra’s slum dwellers’ access to COVID-19 vaccination, 2 million people in Chhattisgarh reached through 3,000 young volunteers and an Op-ed by Nobel Prize winner Abhijit Banerjee on Education.


Sid Shrestha
Chief - C4D, UNICEF India

31 AUGUST 2021
Social mobilization activities being conducted in an informal settlement in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, August 2021. Picture courtesy Shelter Associates.

"Before the vaccine registration camp started in my slum, I waited for two months to get vaccinated. As the neighbors and I were surveyed by the Shelter Associates, we received a token and got vaccinated against COVID-19 the next day right here in the slum", said Gita Kamble of Phulewadi slum area of Kolhapur in India’s Maharashtra State. Phulewadi slum houses 227 low-income families.

Using innovation to leave no one behind in the urban slums of India, UNICEF with its partner Shelter Associates launched COVID-19 vaccine registration camps in early August 2021 to address challenges of online vaccine registration. The initiative in collaboration with Kolhapur Municipal Corporation includes a household survey, token distribution, registration sites and awareness raising campaign.

According to Kolhapur Municipal Corporation, the vaccine coverage was noted to be particularly low due to internet access issues as a key barrier to vaccine appointment registration. This is in addition to vaccine hesitancy fuelled by misinformation. Municipal Commissioner, Dr Kadambari Balkawade says "after studying the vaccine coverage data, together with UNICEF and partners we designed a communication strategy using digital tools for community mapping, community engagement activities and hygiene supplies that have been distributed in the slum. Our aim is to make sure everyone knows how, when, and where to get vaccinated and receive the vaccine in shortest time possible".

Rajeshwari Chandrasekar, Chief Field Office, UNICEF Maharashtra says "vaccine coverage data show low immunization rate in informal settlements known as slums. Municipalities do not have data about the vaccine status of the residents as houses are not numbered or legally recognized. We addressed the issue using Plus Codes, registration camps in the slums and volunteers to provide tokens for those registered. Residents got vaccinated onsite by the Health Department. Our aim is to not leave anyone behind. Through social mobilization strategies, we ensured people got the right information thereby improving vaccine eagerness amongst informal settlements".
Once houses are registered and households surveyed, immunization sites are organized. Community outreach workers have helped with the community visits, registration, and community engagement activities to address any vaccine hesitancy issues. "We organized small meetings, puppet shows and vaccination mascot, rickshaw branding and songs, megaphone announcements to generate demand on vaccine", says Harsha Mehta, Communication for Development Officer.
For Pratima Joshi, Executive Director at Shelter Associates, the data collection work started years ago and became a valuable resource for planning immunization campaigns targeting the most marginalized. "Shelter Associates has been effectively leveraging its data-driven, community-centric approach to understand the vaccination status in slums. The data for every person that is being recorded is attached to the spatial maps that have been created over the years to help monitor the outreach of the registration and vaccination drives. Plus codes which are digital location addresses assigned to every house in slums are being shared with the vaccination teams to reach out to every person with COVID-19 vaccine."
In Kolhapur's Phulewadi slum, UNICEF India has been providing over the years much needed aid to children and their families to access improved sanitation systems and hygiene promotion activities to protect them against waterborne diseases. The introduction of digital tools in immunization campaigns combined with awareness raising will ensure that everyone has access to vaccine.
(Above) Map shows Plus Code of the house where family members are not vaccinated. This will help track those not vaccinated and monitor the progress of vaccination.
(Below) Monitoring of vaccination progress and coverage using spatial data.
COVID-19 vaccination drive being inaugurated (left); Corner meeting being conducted (right) at an informal settlement in Kolhapur, August 2021. Pictures courtesy Shelter Associates.
Youth volunteer Padmini Naik spreads information about COVID-19 safe practices in a residential area in Raipur, August 2021. ©UNICEFIndia/ Vinay Panjwani

From the loss of loved ones to serving the country at difficult times, young people in central India’s Chhattisgarh found in ‘Roko au Toko’ (Stop and Educate) a cause to help and protect others against COVID-19.

Over 3,000 enthusiastic youngsters have joined hands in promoting COVID appropriate behaviours and vaccination. Hundreds have flooded the streets with engaging conversations, drama, posters placement, graffiti and megaphone announcements. The campaign supported by UNICEF in April reached over 2 million people as of August 2021. All volunteers from Chhattisgarth neighbourhoods have attended interpersonal communication training that enabled them to engage with their communities positively.

While some volunteers are motivated by the desire to serve, others say it is an opportunity to contribute towards a larger cause. “I joined UNICEF’s Roko au Toko campaign as a duty towards the country in a time of crisis,” says Ayesha Khan from Raipur. Nandkishore Vaishnav says he has lost loved ones from COVID-19 and hopes to contribute to ensuring maximum number of people get vaccinated and save lives.

Throughout the pandemic, targeted campaigns promoting COVID-19 safe practices have been providing credible information and personalized messaging. Youth campaigns have been joined by local leaders, influencers and celebrities in their cause to save lives through information and community engagement.


UNICEF supported community radio station Nityananda Janavani in Purulia, West Bengal, 
reaches sixty-six tribal villages covering over 10,000 people. In the photo, tribal women speak to radio journalist about COVID-19 vaccine and its benefits promoting vaccination. In July 2021, UNICEF launched tribal campaign to address vaccine hesitancy amongst the tribal population. Over 190 community radio stations have been engaged in the campaign to reach tribal remote areas with community driven content.

Picture courtesy Nityananda Janavani, CRS MANT.


Kuttyji, as he is popularly known has worked with UNICEF for 31 years starting from Rajasthan state office. Kuttyji’s journey with UNICEF India took him to Bhubaneswar, Kolkata and Patna and finally Delhi as a Sr. Program Associate.

“Of all the places I have worked, I enjoyed my Kolkata stint the most as I liked the culture there, especially the Durga Puja,” says Kuttyji who grew up in Kerala. He is a man of certificates, starting from HR management, financial management to computer applications and the list doesn’t end.

He recently celebrated the Malayali festival of Onam. It was somewhat muted this time because of COVID cases in the neighborhood, he says, but “still we managed”.  “My wife made 10-15 delicacies for lunch. We all enjoyed our family lunch together with my son on a traditional plantain leaf.” In the evening, his daughter came visiting with her husband and son, and it became a small gathering. He remembers Onam celebrations of his childhood when they would go visiting their grandparents’ house for the festive feast. One of the high points was receiving pocket money.


View: As India plans to reopen classrooms, ‘teaching the children’ must replace ‘teaching the curriculum’; Opinion article by Abhijit Banerjee, recipient of the 2019 Nobel prize in Economics, and Rukmini Banerji, CEO, Pratham; Economic Times, August 2021

Risk Communication and Community Engagement for COVID-19 Response: Stories from the field
This document presents stories from the field from the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. These interventions were supported by CDC.

IEC WAREHOUSE: New IEC materials added include jingles on breastfeeding in Malayalam prepared in partnership with the DWCD in Kerala during the World Breastfeeding Week. These have been released by the department of IPRD, August 2021. A Check list for Gender-Responsive Content Creation on COVID-19 provides guidance on messaging, pictures, audiovisual, text and language. Developed by the UN in India, March 2020 
The documents disseminated by Behaviour Change Matters
do not necessarily reflect an official position by UNICEF.

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