At the backdrop of significant community transmission, rapid increase in brought in dead (BID) cases, low compliance to public health measures such as physical distancing, using masking and hand hygiene, there is increased need to engage the community to build trust and address misconceptions.
A recent phone in study on Health & COVID-19 Mitigation conducted between June-July by Innovation for Poverty Action (IPA), highlighted the following community concerns:
About 10 per cent of respondents say they delayed or skipped needed health-care visits since mid-March. Over 50 per cent of respondents say they delayed or skipped needed health-care visits due to concerns about COVID-19 .
Over 25 per cent of respondents say they never stayed home in the past week.
Almost 80 per cent of respondents say they washed their hands more often this week than before mid-March and have worn a cloth face mask in the past week. Women are more likely than men to stay at home.
Almost 40 per cent of respondents say they feel their household is at risk of contracting COVID-19. For those who do not feel at risk, over 80 per cent of respondents say that it is because they are following preventive measures.
Almost 60 per cent of respondents say their main concern related to the effects of the coronavirus crisis on Zambians is lack of money.
To address the current situation of increased community transmission, a re-branded strategic initiative was launched by MOH to encourage the community take a more center stage to halt the progress of the epidemic.
RCCE partners supported a community-based campaign in response to the strategic focus intended to reach about 2 million people in Lusaka, strategically targeting the markets, households in the compounds, bus terminals and other public places, to promote public adherence to good practices to keep well and safe, including handwashing promotion. The campaign engages 50 public announcers and 200 community-based volunteers to reach the target population, including the vulnerable.
Over 2,000 advocacy brochures were printed, and another 10,000 development and printing of low literacy brochures are in the pipeline to support the campaign.
RCCE partners are engaging chiefs and village heads in 209 Chiefdoms in advocacy meetings across the country including distribution of revised IEC materials.
RCCE support is also increasingly being picked up by high-level policy makers, especially the Minister of Health through frequent meetings with faith leaders, highlighting community influencers participation in the Ministers’ Press briefing to build trust on the public measures.
High level collaboration with inspectoral ministers continued through the policymakers.
IEC materials and recorded public service announcements (PSA) in flash drives was distributed for use in long & short distance buses through the Ministry of Transport and Communication.
The Social Listening, June-July report has been cleared which focuses on community perceptions on use of masks, the notion that “the worst had passed” etc. The report is being widely shared among many platforms.
The mapping of communication initiatives with GRID 3 (an interactive community engagement mapping dashboard) is being rolled out in Lusaka with a newly constructed dashboard and online survey tools.
Efforts are underway to strengthen the scope and capacity of the Call Centre as it continues to reach 28,000 monthly calls on average.
RCCE sector partners continues to support a COVID-19 radio show on the country’s major commercial radio station, and other community radio stations, including with interviews with partners advocating on COVID-19 prevention for disabled persons and to challenge the stigmatization of COVID-19 survivors.
To intensify RCCE activities across 10 provinces additional capacities and resources are required.
Lack of public trust and adherence to public health measures will require time and efforts