From the community relays' mouths to the population’s ears
A mass awareness strategy to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the city of N'Djamena
We are now more than three months after the outbreak of the coronavirus in Chad. The first case was recorded on 19 March 2020 in N'Djamena and since then the number of infected people has steadily increased. Protecting ourselves and those around us from this deadly virus is only possible if the barrier gestures are known, explained and applied by the population.
"The community relays are close to the population so that everyone listens to them. If the communities respect and apply the barrier gestures, we will reduce the spread of the virus as much as possible," says Ms. Raouda Mahamat Yousuf, Health Delegate of N'Djamena province. She says she is concerned about the potential consequences that the reopening of the capital's airport, closed to commercial flights until further notice, could have in terms of new patients. "For this to not occur, we have to act now! "she concludes, encouraging the community relays who came to participate in a training on 25 and 26 June 2020 at the Maison de la Femme in N'Djamena. A training for 346 participants, including 50 from the Cellule de Liaison et d'Information des Associations Féminines (CELIAF) organization, 50 from the Union of Arabic-speaking Women's Associations (UAFAT) and 246 from the 5 health districts of the city, financed by the World Bank and KFW Development Bank, and organized by UNICEF Chad in close collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health (MSP).
"Being here today is very important for me because I am learning and updating myself on the latest information about the pandemic. This is how I can raise awareness among families"
The training modules cover different themes, from the global situation to the contingency plan in Chad, from communication practices to hygiene ones, from key messages to preventive measures. This training was delivered by 17 facilitators, including heads of zones, Information Education and Communication (IEC) focal points, district medical officers who were trained the week before by UNICEF and the MSP's staff.
All these actors, facilitators and community relays, decided to get personally involved for the good of the community. For example, Moumine Baba Adoum, 27, from the Machaga neighbourhood: "I want to help people in my neighbourhood who are illiterate. By giving them information that is complete, I can help them access health services and get treated or prevent them from getting diseases. I have been a community relay since 2011 and I had to train myself and raise awareness about measles, tuberculosis, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS and malaria. Nowadays it's more about COVID-19, but it's not so easy. People think it's a white disease that doesn't affect the poor. They say that our sun kills the virus."
"I feel called upon to go down there and give them the right information."
Moumine will advise members of his community to wash their hands frequently with soap and water or hydroalcoholic gel, to respect physical distance, to wear a mask, to avoid gatherings, to eat from their own plate and drink from their own bottle, as well as to be informed and avoid the spread of false information.
We must not let our guard down, even if lately official figures show a decrease in positive cases. According to Delko Félicité, 39 years old, a CELIAF’s community relay, the solution is to "talk, listen and answer the questions of our brothers and sisters".
From the mouths of these 346 community relays to the ears of the population of N'Djamena, the message is the same: "Let's protect ourselves with barrier gestures to save human lives. COVID-19 kills indiscriminately, but it can lay down its arms in the face of a conscious and alert army''.