Collective work in Sudan kept communities safer during covid-19 waves
Communities in Sudan coming together with one goal, to combat COVID-19
When COVID-19 reached Sudan nearly two years ago, it was evident that the entire community needed to work together to combat it and keep each other safe.
Lives were upended as schools were shut down, lockdowns and curfews were implemented, and many aspects of lives and livelihoods were disrupted.
Remote learning was not an option for most students in Sudan who come from impoverished families and were unable to continue learning during school closures in 2020 and 2021. As a result, most Sudanese children and adolescents faced a learning crisis as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affected 8.1 million students across Sudan.
UNICEF had to quickly adapt to this changing environment and the intervention had to be holistic. The COVID-19 programme was initiated, and part of the effort was for the Social and Behavior Change unit (SBC) at UNICEF to develop a campaign to engage directly with the community to raise its awareness and support them with tools to keep themselves safe.
To do so, 800 community members; 526 females and 272 males in ten states were trained on key practices to keep their community safe from COVID-19. The training centered around understanding the pandemic, its effects and ways to mitigate it such as handwashing and wearing masks. This made it critical for the community to receive practical training to learn how to create cloth masks.
The COVID-19 campaign centered on the schools and the communities around them as to re-open the schools, a lot of efforts are necessary to ensure students can return safely. 250 schools were targeted in all the ten states.
There are two critical steps in keeping communities safe from COVID-19; maintaining physical distance and wearing masks.
Taking into consideration the poor conditions for schools, masks are more than essential.
In Sudan, Khartoum, the capital city, presented the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 while Al-Jazeera, White Nile and Red Sea states also had high numbers compared to other states.
White Nile state was one of the success stories in this campaign. In August 2021, teachers in White Nile State were trained on ways to prevent and raise awareness on COVID-19 and sew masks out of cloth.
Nadia Muhamed is a teacher from Kosti, White Nile State, who was part of the sewing training.
“I was always interested in knitting and sewing and when the pandemic hit, I saw it as a duty to manufacture masks to protect students and teachers and the community. Along with other teachers, I sewed 800 gray masks and distributed them to all the students,” said Nadia.
The Education office affiliated with the locality requested the preparation of two hundred masks for their employees after they saw the impact on the school.
Huda Abdelmajeed, a teacher from Al-Safia neighborhood school in Kosti city in White Nile state was one of the participants in the project.
Huda began using the sewing machine and began training women from the neighborhood on making masks for the students and her community.
“I was able to make 900 masks and I started distributing them to the elderly and people with chronic diseases and vulnerable sectors in the community and I also made 400 masks to cover all the school students,” said Huda.
Huda also spread awareness in her community through the key messages on COVID-19 that she was trained on.
“I targeted women at coffee sessions and began sharing with them messages to keep them safe and because the training gave us an understanding of the counter-messages that we should expect, I was able to answer all their questions without conflict,” said Huda.
To ensure masks were distributed to children and teachers, 200 schools in eight states were given sewing machines. The machines were used by the community to produce masks for the school students and then more masks were produced for the community around the school. The schools were also given 250 microphones and 280 radios to enable schools to keep sharing information.
As the programme came to an end, the trained community members will continue to be monitored by UNICEF’s partner for a few months. Moreover, the sewing machines were handed over to the schools and will be considered a resource for communities
A few months into the pandemic, communities learned the importance of collective efforts and the idea that each one of us had a role to play in protecting each other was cemented through success stories in different communities and schools.
Communities in Kosti in White Nile state and in Eastern Nile in Khartoum have learned how to work together to fight COVID-19. UNICEF through its partners will continue empowering communities to keep children in school and keep communities safe.