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Our response to COVID-19

This page details Suvita's response to the COVID-19 pandemic

MAY 2021 UPDATE: wave 2 response

As the COVID-19 second wave presents huge challenges in India, we have considered what Suvita can do to support public health, given our unique position. Below is a summary of our activities in response to the second wave.

In action: Continuing routine childhood immunisation work to mitigate reductions in coverage


WHO and UNICEF have warned since the beginning of the first wave that COVID-19 poses critical threats to childhood immunisation services and campaigns. It’s estimated that millions of children in India missed key vaccines during the first wave of COVID-19. 


We continue our routine immunisation work with renewed energy, to mitigate this risk where possible during the second wave. We are coordinating closely with our state government partners, ensuring that our programmes are delivered in line with vaccination service availability. We also plan to send an across-the-board ‘catch-up’ message when the second wave subsides, to all users whose children were due a vaccine during this period, to help those who missed out for any reason during this time to catch up with their vaccine schedule.

Completed: Sending mass SMS messages to support home care


We have sent mass SMS messages to support those giving home care to loved ones with COVID-19. These focused on proning - a medically recommended, evidence-based technique which improves oxygen saturation by lying the patient on their stomach, improving the ventilation-perfusion ratio in the lungs. Proning requires no equipment and saves lives.


On 7th May 2021, we conducted a rapid survey (n=54) of enrollees of our SMS programme in Saran district, Bihar. We found that 78% were not familiar with this technique, but 94% said that they would use it if caring for a loved one with covid at home, if they received an SMS containing relevant information. Our pre-project ‘Guesstimate’ of the project's potential impact is here.


We designed and translated SMS messages in all languages spoken by our programme users (Hindi, Bhojpuri, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, English), which convey key information on proning and direct the reader to additional resources for further information - either a YouTube video or a government hotline (ensuring accessibility both to those with and without smartphones).

We began sending out the first round of messages from 16th May (as soon as the appropriate content registration had been completed with the authorities), and have sent at least 2 messages to over 300,000 users since then. We also conducted surveys before and after sending the messages to learn about their usefulness. We are currently (as of 10th June) analysing the full data and preparing a short report summarising the project - early indicators suggest that the messages were useful and timely: most messages delivered successfully; >6% of recipients clicked through to an instructional YouTube video; and our users' knowledge of proning was on average higher after the messages were sent, and higher amongst users who specifically remembered receiving the SMS vs. those who did not.

In action: Supporting government roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations


Two members of our team have been seconded to our state government partners in Bihar and Maharashtra since much earlier in the pandemic. They continue to support the government’s response, and are currently working on the COVID-19 vaccination drive.

In action: Supporting mutual aid project to verify hospital bed and oxygen availability in Bihar and Jharkhand


A number of our field officers are working with several other organisations on the collaborative “Co-verified” project. We are verifying up-to-date information on the availability of hospital beds and oxygen in Bihar and Jharkhand, for use by the general public. Follow the link for up-to-date information.

Idea stage: Boosting demand (especially amongst older people) for COVID-19 vaccination


We are currently investigating the potential to use our existing toolkit to boost uptake of COVID-19 vaccination, particularly amongst older people. This is currently in the idea/research stage, and the outcome will depend on our findings around key barriers preventing older people from accessing the COVID-19 vaccine, plus whether we can expect these barriers to be overcome using Suvita’s resources (such as through mass SMS messages, through mass voice messages or through the engagement of our immunisation ambassadors).


"Our response" summary brochure

(v3 17 April 2020; N.B. this document reflects our early plans and is no longer up-to-date)

Literature review and draft messages (2020)

APRIL 2020 UPDATE: wave 1 response

Adjustments to our existing work:

  1. We paused our programme implementation during the early stages of the pandemic so that we could get a clear sense of the associated risks and benefits. The continuation of routine immunisation services has been identified as a critical priority by both UNICEF and the Government of India, so our routine immunisation work has now restarted.

  2. All our programmes are being conducted remotely and our staff (in all countries) have been asked to work from home wherever possible. For the small portion of our work which cannot be conducted remotely, a full risk assessment and risk mitigation measures have been put in place.

New activities:

Earlier this year, we launched a number of COVID-related projects, in collaboration with our government partner Bihar State Health Society and our academic partner Dr. Sebastian Bauhoff (Harvard Assistant Professor of Global Health and Economics) and his research team.


We investigated knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of low-income communities in India related to COVID-19 (through phone surveys and in collaboration with other groups doing similar work) and identified key gaps which would benefit from government messaging campaigns.

We then used state of the art adaptive testing techniques to investigate the effect of the content, framing, timing and frequency of SMS messages designed to encourage COVID-19-related behaviour change.

Messages were designed to be:

  • Aligned with MOHFW and WHO recommendations

  • Shaped by behavioural science

  • Reach low-income communities who have limited access to information


Implementation and data collection for this study is complete; data analysis is ongoing.

These plans have evolved over time depending on where we can most usefully support government efforts as the crisis has developed. All activities have been and will continue to be conducted in accordance with the Government of India’s coronavirus

guidance and restrictions.

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