Despite an abundance of media channels and messaging platforms, helping people get the information they need in a clear way can be difficult, particularly for those in lower-income and socioeconomic brackets.
Today, communities need to access information about Coronavirus, how it spreads and how to protect themselves from it. With this in mind, UNICEF, in partnership with National Orientation Agency (NOA), is using mobile vans to communicate directly with community members, providing information on how to stay safe and promoting breastfeeding – a crucial way of keeping babies healthy.
UNICEF Communication Specialist, Geoffrey Njoku said the mobile campaign works with traditional rulers and NOA officers, deploying a van with a large speaker to broadcast prerecorded COVID-19 prevention messages to people across ten communities in Enugu State.
According to him, “As it makes its way through the communities, the van stops at designated points where staffers can talk directly to people, answer questions and share communication materials, all while observing social distancing protocols.”
It was at one of these stops that a woman identified as Blessing got answers to her questions, as she discovered it was indeed safe to continue breastfeeding without fear that she could risk passing COVID-19 to her infant. Like many, Blessing, 45, has had a tough time making sense of what the COVID-19 pandemic means for her. She knows that it has cost her her main source of income, shutting down the market where she ekes out her living selling vegetables.
She can hear the cries for food from her children and struggles to keep them occupied and with the schools closed. Beyond this, she has many questions about this strange disease that keeps everyone indoors, and it’s hard to know where to find the answers.
She gets second-hand information from the other women at the market, and her children get an eyeful on social media. But it’s hard to sift the truth from the falsehoods, as the onset of COVID-19 has brought with it a wave of rumour, mixed messages and deliberate misinformation. She worries whether it’s safe to breastfeed during the pandemic or whether doing so will increase the risk of transmission. “Is it safe for my little baby?” Blessing wonders. And as some communities are hard to reach by road, messages are amplified through UNICEF/Enugu State On-air broadcasts called “COVID-19 Radio Talk,”, which are carried on eleven stations. The broadcasts use live interactive radio shows and catchy jingles to reach more than 300,000 households, covering nearly one million people.
On one of the programs, Dr Ibrahim Conteh, Chief of UNICEF Field Office Enugu, encouraged listeners to not think of COVID-19 as a death sentence, but rather to focus on doing what’s needed to prevent infection. “Like with every other infectious disease, you can stay safe through social distancing, regular handwashing with soap and water and wearing a face mask – and of course promptly reporting any symptoms to the emergency lines, as stipulated by National Centre for Disease Control,” he said. It’s a message that the people of Enugu, Blessing among them, will benefit from hearing.