Situation Report

Support to step up COVID-19 risk communication and awareness in Misrata

Humanitarian partners continued to work closely with authorities to destigmatize the virus and increase awareness to ensure people can and do take proper precautions to protect themselves. Starting on 22 August, the NCDC, supported by the UN, launched a risk education and awareness campaign for COVID-19 in Misrata in light of the increasing numbers of cases in the city.

The campaign included dissemination of information and awareness flyers, displaying of posters in public and gathering places, widespread TV, radio and social media broadcasts, as well as events with local religious leaders. The campaign is similar to one that was conducted in Sebha following sharp increases in cases in June and July. The campaign, which ran from 30 June to 10 August aimed to raise community awareness about the disease and provided guidance on how people could protect themselves and seek support in order to control the spread of the virus.

As part of the campaign, a rapid questionnaire was developed to assess communities’ knowledge and attitudes related to communication. When asking what communication platforms people thought were most effective 93.8 per cent of people identified Facebook, with the remaining identifying local channels.

Where social media was not accessible, respondents indicated that the most impactful means were: signs or posters that were place along roads (61.7 per cent), flyers that had distributed in public places (57.4 per cent) and signs and stickers displayed in mosques, bakeries and other public places (42.6 per cent). These findings highlight the importance of using a number of diverse channels and methods to effectively communicate and raise awareness with communities.

Another important way in which the humanitarian community supports community awareness and engagement is through the Inter-Agency Common Feedback Mechanism (CFM). Since its establishment in February 2020, the WFP/ETS-managed call centre has answered almost 12,000 calls.

While numbers were modest in the initial days, given limited awareness, calls sharply increased at the end of March when it became the official national COVID-19 hotline – going from 50 calls per week in mid-March to 2,400 calls the week after. The call centre continues to play a crucial part in the health response to prevent further spread of the virus in Libya. Since March, the average number of calls has stabilized to around 450 calls per week.

Geographically, most calls (90 per cent) have come from the western region of Libya, Tripoli municipality. This may in part be due to the emergence of the pandemic in Tripoli and the larger presence of international humanitarian partners operating in the region who have been providing awareness materials along with their distributions.

Of all calls received, women account for one quarter of all callers. Already half of the operators of the call center are women, allowing affected populations to provide their feedback and raise their concerns to an operator with whom they are most comfortable. Further efforts are ongoing to ensure that the feedback mechanism is accessible to all groups in Libya and the CFM is currently rolling out a visibility plan, using a variety of means, such as image-based awareness media, to ensure broad reach among the population

While earlier in the year, the vast majority of callers asked for COVID-19 related information, the proportion of calls related to humanitarian issues has significantly increased in the past few months, to around 40 per cent by August. Since mid-April, most of these humanitarian-related calls have inquired about cash and food assistance (34 and 24 per cent respectively), followed by protection, shelter and non-food items and health assistance (between 10 and 12 per cent for each sector).

In addition to providing critical information on COVID-19, the CFM is enabling people to have easier access to information about all types of assistance available to them, speeds up the resolution of any issues and gives a space for affected people to raise their concerns to humanitarian actors, thereby improving aid delivery efficiency and accountability to affected populations.