Mobile trucks ignite interest in information-starved communities in Zimbabwe
Music, dance and a message to take home. Specially designed mobile trucks provide entertainment as hygiene campaign buzzes through disease-prone communities.
Harare, Zimbabwe-After encountering a truck fitted with an entertainment system beaming information on hygiene in Harare’s Kambuzuma township, 16-year-old Shallom rushed home, sat her parents down and told them she had a life-saving message to deliver.
“The first thing I did when the truck left was to go home to talk to my parents and my aunt about hygiene,” she said.
She recalled telling them: “We are in danger if we continue behaving the way we do.” She referred to complacency over COVID-19 prevention measures, lethargy in washing hands and reliance on unsafe water sources. She also told them about a potential diarrhoea outbreak and how COVID-19 remains a risk.
“I had learned all these things from the truck, but it was news to people at home,” she said.
GOAL Zimbabwe partnered with Promobile Africa, with support from UNICEF, to embark on a mobile campaign to reach out to vulnerable communities, many of whom also lack access to information.
This campaign is under the Hygiene and Behavior Change Coalition (HBCC) project funded by the UK Government's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). Promobile provides specially equipped trucks and teams.UK Government's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)
The trucks have been pulling many people across the country in rural and urban communities by playing a loud mix of trending songs and hygiene-themed tunes amid dramatic performances by young, trained teams.
Initially, the campaign focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. But it has recently added re-emerging threats such as waterborne diseases, including Cholera and Typhoid.
It emphasises the importance of hand washing with soap for disease prevention. The campaign is helping spread messages at a critical time when many parts of the country are threatened with waterborne diseases.
Sanitary conditions are deteriorating due to the rainy season, inadequate service delivery and unhygienic behaviour. Many must be aware of messages passed through radio, television and social media platforms because electricity outages even mean their gadgets stay off for long periods.
People like Shallom, who interface with the mobile trucks campaign, have become key ambassadors as they spread the messages to others in their communities.
“The mobile trucks are an essential source of information,” said Shalom. High-tempo music was the first thing that attracted her to the truck when it arrived at her school in the township recently.
“Some of my friends who used to despise health education were dancing. That’s how we were all hooked to the messages being disseminated. We can never forget them,” said Shallom.
Apart from visiting schools, the trucks meander through neighbourhoods delivering the messages.
“They are giving us the information we didn’t have. They have to continue coming because people here need this kind of information. The advantage is that even people can hear the messages from their homes because of the loudspeaker and the music,” said Senzile Ndlovu, a 51-year-old resident of Kambuzuma Township.
The campaign has reached over half a million people in Zimbabwe’s urban and rural areas, where there is a shortage of information on key messages.
“People usually don’t come when called for a gathering on hygiene issues. But they come in their numbers once we introduce entertainment such as hygiene-themed music and dance. It’s an effective way of delivering messages and changing behaviour,” said Earnest Mudavanhua, a WASH officer with GOAL Zimbabwe, explaining the campaign's popularity.
School authorities said they had noticed significant changes since the truck visited the school.
“Sometimes, pupils show a lack of interest when we teach them about hygiene, maybe because they are used to us. But when the truck came, the music just blew them away. The messages will remain etched in their minds. Pupils are always asking for the truck to return,” said Cathrine Dowa, the school Health Coordinator at Kambuzuma 4 High School.