UNICEF accelerates mobilisation of communities to boost COVID-19 vaccine awareness and registration

UNICEF accelerates mobilisation within Lebanon’s communities to further promote vaccine awareness and boost registration

Simon Balsom
Leb Relief staff distributing covid awareness brochures on youth volunteers.
31 May 2021

UNICEF leads partners in boosting Lebanon’s COVID-19 vaccine uptake

UNICEF accelerates mobilisation within Lebanon’s communities to further promote vaccine awareness and boost registration 

The COVID-19 pandemic is more than just a health crisis. Its impact is contributing to the current socio-economic crisis in Lebanon and impacting all sectors of society while imposing its burden most heavily on vulnerable communities. The uptake and widespread acceptance of safe and effective vaccines remain a critical public health priority.

Mobilising communities

UNICEF’s lead on community mobilisation has seen many local organisations and municipalities playing a crucial role in mobilising communities in support of the vaccine awareness campaign. The overall goal is to raise awareness on the importance of COVID-19 immunization, increase pre-registration, demand for and uptake of the vaccines, while promoting key COVID-19 prevention behaviours and practices.

The Mayor of Abbassiyyeh municipality in southern Lebanon, Ali Ezzedine, was eager to respond to UNICEF’s work. “We’ve seen a boost to key activities in our town just when they are most needed. Alongside raising awareness of coronavirus prevention measures and encouraging vaccine pre-registration, medical supplies were provided to coronavirus patients.”

UNICEF and its partners are reaching out to local actors and community mobilisers to widen engagement with youths, community stakeholders and volunteers to work together for the implementation of an effective and inclusive campaign.

“We are raising awareness on the importance of the covid-19 vaccine and the need to register on the platform”, says youth volunteer Hadil. “Many people were missing this life saving information and we are explaining and showing them how easy it is to register to end this pandemic”.

With microplans developed at a local level - including mapping actors in the field -

UNICEF -in close coordination with the Ministry of Public Health is engaging inter-agency partners, volunteers, unions of municipalities, mayors, NGOs, CBOs, and crisis cells in outreach activities to mobilise community members and influencers to support pre-registration through awareness-raising and direct registration on IMPACT platform for vaccine uptake.

“Within this unprecedented and fast-moving pandemic, no one is safe unless everyone is safe. Vaccine hesitancy remains relatively steady in many areas of Lebanon, and, alarmingly, resistance is at its highest within the most vulnerable communities,” said Luca Solimeo, UNICEF’s Chief of Communication for Development. “But we believe that resistance is primarily the result of fears and misinformation regarding both the COVID-19 virus and the vaccine – and where correct facts are shared and concerns are addressed together with the communities, hesitancy can swiftly drop”.

Leb Relief and UNICEF staff helping Salim Sabouna a resident of Bab AL Ramel to register on the platform for covid vaccination.

Partner outreach is well underway. In Tripoli, as in other areas of Lebanon, volunteers go door-to-door sharing information about vaccine registration.

Early feedback shows that after a home visit people tend to be favourable to pre-registration. Some households seen are unaware that vaccines are available free of charge. As such, volunteers are increasing their efforts to communicate on the importance and free access to COVID-19 vaccines provided by the MoPH.

On Tripoli’s streets, garage mechanic Mohamad was happy to welcome a team of partner volunteers. After a brief conversation, he admitted that he’d intended to register online for the vaccine, but “just never got around to doing it”. Ten minutes later, and he’s signed up and ready to receive an SMS when his turn comes. “If I’d known it was this easy, I’d have done it weeks ago”, he smiles while promising to register his wife that same evening.

“We’re playing a critical role in educating the community about coronavirus and how to prevent it”, acknowledges youth volunteer Ahmad. “The booklets, the flyers, the social media, the photographs, they’re all sharing a unified message to everyone in Lebanon: “This is the truth about COVID-19, yet together we can defeat the virus”.

Holding a lecture about COVID19 vaccination

Evidence-based data collection

Activities, led by UNICEF and implemented by partners, are ongoing to collect data from communities regarding their perceptions and concerns on COVID-19 vaccine of key programme elements to tailor activities and design powerful messages accordingly and deliver them effectively. 

Targeted community members include caregivers, religious leaders, health workers, refugees, community volunteers, NGOs, municipality members and community-based organisations, including those focusing on people with disabilities, gender minorities, domestic and migrant workers, and the stateless populations.

For UNICEF’s youth volunteer Hassan, inclusivity is also a foundation for the success of the programme. “We have many on the edges of society who are from marginalised and vulnerable groups”, he says, noting they could easily be overlooked and therefore excluded. “Regardless of race, gender and nationality, we’re offering awareness activities and seminars for everyone. Spreading a culture of equality is essential if we’re going to target everyone in eradicating the virus”.

In Akkar, Hrar resident Talal has long been fully convinced of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. “The vaccine is our prime route out of the pandemic”, he says, “but, for anyone to know this, it’s important to be equipped with full and accurate information. It’s surprising just how many people don’t know the real facts even now”.

Building capacity

Supported by the University of Balamand (UoB), UNICEF is designing and implementing a series of training materials to support the capacity building of the programme’s frontline workers and healthcare workers and key influencers, municipalities, crisis cells and local committees, plus faith-based organisations, educational institutions, Interagency partners, community-based organisations, scouts and youth associations. The training sessions aim to equip them with scientific and evidence-based information on COVID-19 vaccine and inter-personal communication skills to raise awareness on vaccine uptake and pre-registration.

UNICEF is also supporting Lebanon’s Disaster Risk Management Unit to coordinate the training sessions and the development of micro-plans within the nation’s governorates, municipalities, local committees, and many faith-based organisations.

Inform, educate, communicate

Since the beginning on the COVID-19 outbreak in Lebanon, UNICEF has been producing and disseminating through media, social media and community gateways lifesaving messages to inform, educate and address misinformation, rumors and fake news. Messages tackled preventive and safety measures and the national vaccination campaign including IEC materials focused on registration process for vaccine uptake, how to report vaccine adverse events, and the safety and efficacy of vaccines