Boosting Community Awareness on COVID-19 in Zimbabwe

Wednesday 25 November 2020

As the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic, Save the Children is taking COVID-19 awareness and prevention messages to several communities across all its geographical areas of operation. Among these, are communities in Beitbridge, Matobo and Kariba districts of Zimbabwe, where Save the Children has been conducting community outreaches, and making use of loudhailers, distributing posters with COVID-19 messages and having one-on-one interactions with community members.

Save the Children Project Officer talks about COVID-19 with vendors at Lutumba business centre, Beitbridge

The campaigns which are targeting both the rural and urban populations are being conducted at major markets, shopping centres, bus terminuses and cattle sales as these are areas where many people converge hence the risk of COVID-19 transmission is high if people are not vigilant. Conducting these campaigns at such places also means the messages reach many people who will in turn cascade the information down to their families and friends.

The main thrust of the campaign is to remind people that coronavirus has not ended and people need to continue adhering to COVID-19 preventative guidelines such as wearing facemasks, washing hands, using hand sanitisers and practising social distancing.

“We are here to remind you that COVID-19 has not ended. Let’s keep washing our hands with soap and water, let’s wear our face masks and let’s continue maintaining a social distance of at least a one meter from others. To all shop owners, please place handwashing stations at your shop entrance points and always ensure your customers wash hands before entering the shop and they wear face masks correctly at all times,” says a voice from the loud hailer.

Making use of a loudhailer to distribute COVID-19 messages in at a busy market Beitbridge district

Reinforcing Behaviour Change

As of November 24, Zimbabwe had recorded a total of 9398 COVID-19 cases, 8297 recoveries and 274 deaths. The COVID-19 awareness campaigns are essential in reinforcing behaviour change among community members. Most people in remote parts of Zimbabwe do not have adequate information about the novel coronavirus and they base their knowledge on hearsay hence such campaigns help in demystifying myths surrounding COVID-19.

Ayanda Ncube, a project officer at Save the Children says: “People’s perceptions of the pandemic have changed due to relaxation of lockdown measures which were put in place by the government in March 2020 to help curb the spread of the virus. What I have been observing during these awareness sessions is that, a lot of people no longer adhere to COVID-19 preventative guidelines because they think COVID-19 ended.”

“The campaigns aim to remind people of what risks their actions might result in. A lot of people no longer wear their masks. As part of the by-laws, shops and vending stalls are supposed to offer handwashing facilities where customers wash their hands, but the majority are no longer following these guidelines. You also see people getting into shops to buy without wearing masks. People are now relaxed.”

"Temperatures in the districts have fluctuated and can reach up to 40 degrees on a very hot day and some community members believe that coronavirus has waned due to the warm weather. The campaigns are helping to demystify such falsehoods which communities believe to be true,” said Ayanda.

Working together to fight COVID-19

Thanks to the financial support from the American people through the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, which has enabled Save the Children and the Ministry of Health and Child Care to reached more than 100 000 people and continues to reach more with COVID-19 awareness messages across 3 districts.

Other key stakeholders supporting the cause include representatives from Zimbabwe Republic Police, Ministry of Information, Beitbridge, Kariba and Matobo Rural District Councils and Town Councils. The campaigns will run until December 2020.