The role of local health and community actors in delivering social protection during the COVID-19 pandemic in Gujarat, India
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Center for Development Research, Germany
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1898
The objective of this study is to find out how different local-level health and community actors are engaged in the last-mile delivery of social protection in Gujarat, India. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of India introduced several new social protection instruments such as the Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana and the Atma Nirbar Bharat Package for health and food security. However, due to the national lockdown, strict social distancing regulations and curfew, the last-mile delivery of these new instruments was a challenge. Additionally, the last-mile delivery of existing social protection programmes or schemes was also complicated. In this situation, several local-level health and community actors such as Anganwadi workers, ASHA workers, ration shop workers, heads of dairy cooperatives, and heads of women’s collectíves had to collaborate for targeting households, disseminating information and ensuring that the benefits from social protection had been availed. This qualitative study was carried out through in-depth Key Informant Interviews with local women’s groups, community health workers, heads of dairy cooperatives, and ration-shop workers (n=40). The study was carried out in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar districts of Gujarat. Areas of inquiry included the implementation of social protection during the COVID-19 pandemic, information dissemination, participation in social networks, linkages between different implementation actors, and their role in preventive health. The recordings of the interviews were transcribed and coded in English, and common themes were subsequently identified and analyzed. The primary findings were that while there is no formal protocol for communication and coordination between these different local-level actors, they relied on personal social networks between themselves to coordinate the implementation of social protection that did not necessarily fall in their jurisdiction. Additionally, women’s groups and social networks played a crucial role in information dissemination.