Communities in Nigeria drive the fight against COVID-19

We know that the most effective way to tackle health issues is to put affected communities in the driving seat – COVID-19 is no different.

When the coronavirus pandemic reached Nigeria, Sightsavers and partners – who were already working with the Nigerian government to tackle neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) through the Ascend West and Central Africa programme – were encouraged by programme donor UK aid to temporarily redirect the resources, staff, systems and expertise in place to support the country’s emergency response. And we rose to the request.

Working in Kano, Kaduna and Sokoto, where coronavirus cases were high and misinformation rampant, Ascend supported state health ministries to devise a COVID-19 communication campaign that would resonate with communities – around five million people in total.

This meant designing television adverts, radio jingles, social media content, billboards, posters and flyers that would strike a chord with community members. It also meant using these materials to train community health workers and volunteers to help raise awareness. In addition, we engaged with influential community figures, such as religious and traditional leaders, to ensure messages were trusted. This helped to ensure that people from the communities that needed to be reached were at the centre of the activities.

“Whatever intervention you want to do, you have to involve or engage fully in community participation,” says Shehu Dado, deputy state health educator at the Kano State Ministry of Health. “You cannot stay at the office and design everything. No, no, no; we have to engage the community. Whenever you work with them you get knowledge, and you achieve whatever you want to achieve.

“You have to be dynamic and you have to be flexible. Through talking with them [community members], I learned people didn’t understand what COVID-19 was… They heard such-and-such information from social media and… this is the reason they were non-compliant.”

Originally published Sightsavers: Source