The World Health Organization (WHO) Situation report #96 dated 25th of April indicated that nearly 3 million people are infected with COVID19 and the disease has claimed more than 200,000 lives across the globe. Somalia has reported 390 confirmed cases and 18 deaths with exponential increase in the last 2 weeks. However, the figures in Somalia might be underreported due to limited capacity of the country to identify and test cases. The outbreak is having visible negative impact on food security due to rising food prices and health system resource channeled to the outbreak containing effort.
COVID19 pandemic comes with catastrophic impact on education, health, nutrition, and protection for millions of children and their parents in Somalia.
Communities at high risk of COVID19 are disproportionately impacted, especially those who live in refugee camps with limited access to health and sanitation services. In most vulnerable communities such as IDP (Internally Displaced People) centers, stopping the spread of the deadly virus becomes almost impossible. The pandemic brings apprehension for communities living under already staggering health and economic situation in Somalia. The negative effect is vividly touching the livelihoods of children. Several efforts are currently going on to communicate the danger posed by the pandemic, and to create awareness across the community.
The COVID19 global pandemic is an unprecedented situation, and as such requires an unprecedented response.
COVID19 is unlike any disease outbreak we typically respond to in Somalia (AWD/cholera, measles), and business as usual will not suffice. Our current approach to community engagement and other Social Behavior Change Communications (SBCC) is typically very ‘one-way’, top-down, and often ‘spray and pray’, whereby we pump out untested messages through multiple channels and hope that it works.
For that reason, to effectively prepare and respond to COVID19 pandemic, WHO and partners have developed the RCCE (Risk Communication and Community Engagement) guidelines based on experience from the Ebola outbreak.
RCCE promotes a two-way communication strategy between the population at high risk of COVID19 and the responding agencies including the government,
NGOs/INGOs, UN and others actors working to contain the outbreak of the diseases by proactively asking, listening to and understanding the knowledge and perception gaps, and tailoring the communication messaging accordingly. Regular and proactive RCCE of at-risk populations not only enables people to prevent the infection of COVID19, but also helps to reduce fear and stigmatization (which can prompt social isolation of groups and contribute to a situation where the virus is more, not less, likely to spread); and increase social support for and access to basic social services.
Understanding the importance of measuring the gap in knowledge, perception, attitude, communication channels, and existing barriers is important to effectively design evidence based institutional communication and campaigning strategies. Save the Children conducted a Rapid Assessment covering the entire Somalia between 13th to 16th of April, 2020. The findings of the assessment will inform the defining and prioritizing of the RCCE strategy and key communication and community engagement plan; including contextualizing key messages tailored to circumstances of vulnerable communities, defining key actions/activities, and tailoring and testing materials. Ultimately, the exercise will increase the effectiveness of our communication activities and therefore the impact of the overall response.
Furthermore, meaningful participatory engagement and adapting messages to the local context and audience is also proven to lead to stronger ownership, buy-in and commitment, as well as maintaining/ increasing access, and strengthening the organization’s integrity and reputation.