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Kyunki… a drop of life

© UNICEF/ 2009
CMCs introduce Kyunki... to their community members with the help of the Facts for Life flip book. CMC outreach is the cornerstone of communication for polio eradication in UP's highest risk areas.

Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh: Around 30 kilometers outside of the city of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh is Devchauraha, site of one of the approximately 108,000 polio vaccination booths that were set up on the 1st of February 2009. The village buzzes with activity. All around there are posters announcing “Polio Sunday – 1st February”. The booth area is decorated with streamers and balloons. Rice pudding prepared at the local school is served to families who bring their children for polio vaccination. 

Being one of four remaining countries with ongoing wild poliovirus transmission, India’s Intensified Pulse Polio Immunization (IPPI) programme is urgent, focused, and experienced. The role of social mobilization is critical to universal reach and the implementers know this. The Government of India works with UNICEF, WHO, Rotary International and regional partners such as CORE to put strategies in place to maximize polio immunization coverage.

By 10:30 AM, 74 children have already been given Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). The Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM), Sushma Rani, is optimistic that the number of missed children would be fewer than ever.

Being one of four remaining countries with ongoing wild poliovirus transmission, India’s Intensified Pulse Polio Immunization (IPPI) programme is urgent, focused, and experienced. The role of social mobilization is critical to universal reach and the implementers know this. The Government of India works with UNICEF, WHO, Rotary International and regional partners such as CORE to put strategies in place to maximize polio immunization coverage.

The Social Mobilization Network (SMNet) is one such strategy. Comprised of more than 4,200 Community Mobilization Coordinators (CMCs) strategically chosen from and serving in the areas of Uttar Pradesh most at risk of polio infection, the SMNet works between and during every polio immunization round to ensure that no child is missed. From pregnancy and child tracking through to family counseling and creative booth day activities, CMCs—usually young women from the community within which they work—strive to promote the health-seeking behaviours critical to polio eradication and associated health results.

Supporting the SMNet’s behavioural outcomes is UNICEF’s Kyunki…Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai (Because… That Is What Life Is)—a primetime soap opera that imparts the immunization and other life-saving messages found in the UN publication Facts for Life. Kyunki… speaks directly to the young mothers, families, and other caregivers with whom CMCs engage on a daily basis. Tackling personal as well as socio-cultural issues in a sensitive yet persuasive manner, the serial provides credibility and reinforcement to the SMNet’s communication efforts—and it does so in a medium conducive to low literacy contexts and in the most popular entertainment format in the country.

Supporting the SMNet’s behavioural outcomes is UNICEF’s Kyunki…Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai (Because… That Is What Life Is)—a primetime soap opera that imparts the immunization and other life-saving messages found in the UN publication Facts for Life. Kyunki… speaks directly to the young mothers, families, and other caregivers with whom CMCs engage on a daily basis. Tackling personal as well as socio-cultural issues in a sensitive yet persuasive manner, the serial provides credibility and reinforcement to the SMNet’s communication efforts—and it does so in a medium conducive to low literacy contexts and in the most popular entertainment format in the country.

By mirroring and dramatizing the reality, hopes and aspirations of its audience, Kyunki… tries to create an enabling environment for interpersonal communication by CMCs and other frontline works engaged in IPPI and other critical health services that fall under India’s National Rural Health Mission.

“My first child didn’t get any vaccines because I was scared of the consequences and I lost my second child to a miscarriage. When I conceived a third time, five years later, I was very careful. I watch the serial and I have seen that what they show is very right. As mothers, we have to keep many things in mind for the safety of our children. Now I never miss a booth day and I don’t wait for the CMC to tell me to take my child to the polio booth”, says a regular viewer of Kyunki…, Pushpa.

Rekha, a CMC at Devchauraha adds, “When I visit some houses they tell me what they learnt from the serial. There are times when the woman wants to immunize her child but her husband doesn’t allow it. Now even men watch the show and listen to what we are saying. The serial is a new method that is making our job easier”.

The serial has had the additional effect of recognizing the efforts of India’s critical polio and other frontline workers. “Though there is no CMC in the serial, I watch the Nurse and the ASHA [Accredited Social Health Activist] and feel that they are also doing what I am doing in real life. I feel very proud of my job. We are working very hard to save the children in our village and for me this is the most important thing,” say one of Devcharaha’s CMCs, Shabnam.

Kyunki…Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai airs on Doordarshan every Monday to Wednesday from 20:30 hrs to 21:00 hrs.

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