Four respondents

A peephole into collection of data for the Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) study in Yambio

James Aboo and Helene Sandbu Ryeng
Two people sitting on chairs outside with significant distance between them
24 August 2020

“As soon as they saw me, they all started running away shouting; Corona, Corona” Lucy Mbarago explains chuckling. She is one of the data collectors in the recent Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) study in Yambio. The study gathers information on what people know about COVID-19 and if/how it has translated into behavioral.

“I was very excited to take part in data collection as I always enjoy getting feedback from the community since it acts as a check and balance for us,” Lucy says. She is an education officer with the UNICEF Yambio field office.

Equipped with a tablet for recording responses, hand sanitizer and a face mask, Lucy was walking to the residents, presenting herself and her mission and ask for the family’s consent to interview them. Her popularity in the community was instrumental in data collection as parents were freely interacting and providing valuable information needed for the study. “I was warmly received in the community and I was able to cover up to 30 households per day.”

Yet, the first community she visited feared her. ”When the children saw my mask, they got really scared and ran away.” Lucy decided to follow the children to find out where they lived in order to understand what scared them.

“I asked why they were running and one of them said they were told by their aunt who is a nurse that those who put on face masks are Covid-19 positive. I told them this is not true and asked if they could take me to their aunt so we could clarify this.”

The aunt explained that she had read in media that only COVID-19 positive people are required to wear face masks, and later she learned that the mask is for everyone to halt transmission of the virus. “I asked her to pass this information to the children as well so they wouldn’t be scared of people with masks, and then I asked her if she would be willing to participate in the KAP study, which she agreed to. She was my first respondent.”

A man and a woman talking with significant distance between them
Lucy is interviewing Mr.Martin. He was happy about getting a visitor that day.

The second experience was a much more pleasant one and showed the results of all the communication efforts made to raise awareness on COVID-19. “Angeline warmly welcomed me, with a protruding belly visible under her dress. She asked me to wash my hands before entering the house. When I was done, she had already made a chair available for me, two meters from her own chair.”

When the interview was over, the lady said; “I know COVID-19 is real because UNICEF is spreading information about it through community mobilizers, church leaders and the radio. Some of us can afford hand washing facilities, others not. Why can’t UNICEF provide for the most Vulnerable?”

“I responded by saying that in face, UNICEF is doing that. We have disseminated masks and handwashing stations to prisons, in markets and camps where people can’t maintain a distance, but that we are not able to serve everyone due to insufficient funding.”

Joyce might have been one of the people Angelina had in mind when asking the question about assisting the most vulnerable. Lucy met her in one of the many households she visited. Joyce is only 19 years old but already a mother and a dropout from school. The father of the child has abounded her and she is struggling to make ends meet. When the interview for the KAP study was finished she asked if there were any opportunities for her to work as a community mobilizer, spreading information about COVID-19 and by doing that earning a living.

When collecting the data, you get insights into people’s struggles and happiness, like Joyce and like Martin. “I think today is my luck day,” the old man said when Lucy approached him. “He explained that he couldn’t remember the last time his daughter had visited him and that I was a nice remembrance for him,” Lucy says with a smile.

Mr. Martin said he had heard about COVID-19 and that the disease frightened him. Still, the worst part for him is that the Government has banned going to church. “If people could worship, they would pray and COVID-19 would die a natural death, Mr. Martin explained to me.” He said he couldn’t afford soap for handwashing nor a mask and therefore depended on God’s protection.

The KAP study is an important tool for UNICEF and other risk communication partners. It helps assessing the uptake of the COVID-19 information in the communities and provide information about which communication activities works well, and which one should be tweaked, changed or discarded.

“My experience as a data collector, is that people are keen on listening and adapt their behavior, but poverty and culture are stopping them,” Lucy says and explains further; “one person said to me that we only practice physical distancing during the day, because we share beds so it can’t happen at night.” For others it is very difficult to stop shaking hands and going to funerals because it is deeply rooted in the culture.

UNICEF is together with the Ministry of Health leading COVID-19 risk communication efforts to make sure everyone is aware of the disease and know how to protect yourself from it. UNICEF’s COVID-19 response is carried out in partnership with the World Bank and generously supported by the government of Japan, Hilton Foundation and UK Aid.