Insights from the Cambodian experience in preventing the spread of COVID-19

All too often, the real time impact of communication campaigns raising awareness of risk isn't captured. During COVID-19 this information is vital to improving messages, so a publicly available dashboard has been created to capture communications impact.

Lydia Darby
UNICEF Cambodia/2020
UNICEF Cambodia/2020
04 September 2020

Risk Communication and Community Engagement is a key intervention being used by UNICEF, governments, and partners worldwide to respond to the spread of COVID-19. The main objective of risk communication is to provide timely, accurate information to the general population (paying particular attention to vulnerable groups), to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.

During the COVID-19 crisis, where normal face-to-face data collection is impossible, alternative methods of data collection have been trialled by UNICEF Cambodia to monitor and understand the evolving situation.

A common gap in existing monitoring frameworks is capturing the effects that risk communication initiatives have on people’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviours. We wanted to find out to what extent are these initiatives influencing behaviour change and strengthening prevention and containment of COVID-19? A dashboard has been created for the public to access data for themselves, accessible here.

Findings from the survey included high levels of awareness of COVID-19 and its threats. Most informants felt messages were easy to understand, although people with disabilities had more difficulties; questions on practicing protective behaviours showed large numbers of people washing their hands and wearing masks, but lower numbers staying at home or keeping distance from others. Public messaging seems to have been the main channel for generating behavioural change. The main barriers to practicing protective behaviours was found to be related to the need to have close contact with people to make a living.

“Being able to see how different communities are receiving and understanding the COVID-19 risk communication materials allows UNICEF to adjust its strategies and tactics accordingly.  It is not an easy task and there are limitations.  For example, data collected was biased towards more urban, educated, connected individuals who follow UNICEF social media.  We recognise this limitation but at the same time, we know that dense urban areas are at a higher risk from COVID-19, so this is a good place to start We are already expanding our methodologies to reach new groups, such as beneficiaries of the positive parenting and MRE programmes, and children in detention centres”, said Juanita Vasquez Escallon, UNICEF’s evaluation specialist. “I would encourage everyone to use the dashboard and explore the data for themselves, the insights might be helpful for your work with communities”, she concluded.