A huge disparity in knowledge and attitude toward COVID-19 in The Gambia – U-Report polls

Most people are aware of COVID-19 but only a few are observing safety measures

Abdoulie Sey
A lady washes the hands of a child with soap and water
UNICEF/UN0610/Noorani
21 May 2020

A considerable number of people are aware of COVID-19 but fewer people practice personal hygiene and social distancing to ward off the disease, two U-Report polls show. The figures provide a fresh insight into people's knowledge and attitude toward COVID-19 and how they are responding to the pandemic.

The two U-Report polls, conducted between March 17th and April 09th, registered an average of 36 per cent response rate out of 10,000 U-Reporters.

In the first poll that measured Coronavirus awareness among U-Reporters, up to 93 per cent of the respondents said they have heard about COVID-19, but not more than 1 in 3 respondents knew the signs and symptoms of the disease. And more than 68 per cent of the respondents said they were not aware of the '1025' COVID-19 helpline.

Figures from the second poll, conducted 25 days after the first one, gauged people's attitude and behaviour toward COVID-19. The results showed that despite strong awareness about social distancing, fewer people practise it, especially in rural communities. And about half of the respondents reported a lack of access to handwashing facilities, with the rural area being more deprived.

The polls also indicate a worrying trend among respondents – at least 50 per cent of the respondents are still practising handshaking and touching their face despite strong health advice against the practice due to risk of contracting the virus.

As part of the UN support to The Gambia's COVID-19 response, UNICEF is facilitating a nationwide community engagement drive meant to promote grassroots' participation in the fight against COVID-19. The goal is to ensure community empowerment and participation in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

To ensure effective national COVID-19 response, UNICEF recommends the following;

- Awareness-raising including use of community radios, design of community action plans and identification of COVID-19 champions to sensitize, provide alerts to health authorities and engage communities on COVID-19 related issues.

- Provision of support to regional and local authorities and structures leading COVID-19 response efforts in various regions, districts and communities.

- Training of and support for young people including members of the Children's National Assembly to complement national efforts to contain the Coronavirus.

- Proper coordination of all COVID-19 response activities across The Gambia including support provided by the government, CSOs and philanthropists.