Supporting and Empowering Communities to Protect Themselves From COVID-19
While COVID-19 is on a slow but steady decline globally, infections in West and Central Africa are growing exponentially as the lack of information, fake news and rumors on how to stop or cure the virus spread worryingly. Since the beginning of outbreak in March 2020, IOM has been supporting populations across the region to protect themselves from COVID-19, prevent the spread of the disease within their communities and combat rumors and stigmatization of those already infected.
However, as preventive measures and crucial information on the virus are being shared mainly on social media, countries in West and Central Africa cannot reach the same levels of information. In fact, with a few exceptions, most of the region’s nations face severe connectivity issues, have weak telecommunications infrastructures and low internet penetration. This is all the more true in remote areas and hard-to-reach regions. Landlocked Chad, in Central Africa, is a case in point given that more than 70 per cent of the population is rural and with limited access to digital information channels. Many of these communities are ‘disconnected’ from radio and cellphone coverage, leaving them out of critical COVID-19 prevention messages.
To overcome this challenge and strengthen health security at local levels, IOM in Chad partnered with local traditional town troubadours to ensure that the most rural communities across the county are informed on COVID-19 transmission and preventive measures. Over 80 troubadours were identified through IOM networks in eight regions in Chad, where IOM already has a presence. They were trained and equipped by IOM with key messages to share with communities in local languages.
Local initiatives such as the town criers in Chad are part of IOM’s Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) efforts and have reached over 10 million people, across 15 countries, in 51 languages. These efforts, guided by local government health authorities and the World Heath Organization, are based on a migrant-inclusive approach, engaging returning migrant networks, migrants in transit and young people considering migration, in the design and implementation of outreach activities.
Source: International Organization for Migration