STOP COVID-19 : Health and Help Initiative first awareness raising activity

The HHI walking in the community

Why an awareness activity on COVID-19?

The first cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Burkina Faso were confirmed on March 9, 2020, making Burkina Faso the sixth country affected in sub-Saharan Africa after Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Togo and fourth in West Africa. Four days later, the third case was confirmed; a week later, Burkina already had 20 confirmed cases of Coronavirus. As of April 05, 2020, in less than one (01) month after the first confirmed cases, the government announced that Burkina was counting a total of 345 confirmed cases including 119 women and 226 men.

Given the rapid spread of the disease around the world and long before it reached Burkina Faso, we had initiated in early March 2020, an activity to the population raise awareness on hygiene and measures, led by the organization Help and Health Initiative.

Awareness raising appeared to be the best way to convey the message because the demonstration is direct, useful and easy to understand by an audience that is mostly out-of-school.

Help and Health Initiative (HHI) which is no longer to be presented (see page facebook et Medium article) is a newly founded non-profit organization led by young medical students from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Ouahigouya, North Region . As a project initiator, I have identified this organization as the ideal one to carry out projects within the COVID-19 framework.

HHI aims to leverage the medical expertise and solidarity of its members in order to provide healthcare to vulnerable people. For the month of March 2020, HHI carried out its first two activities: the first was about identifying six (06) vulnerable sick children in their hospital who would benefit each from financial support and health care. The second activity which is the flagship one, consisted in carrying out a big awareness-raising activity throughout Ouahigouya, the fourth largest city in Burkina Faso.

The preparatory tasks

The activity which took two (02) days, mobilized a team of ten (10) people most of whom are caregivers. But a lot of preparatory tasks were done before. In collaboration with hospital authorities and community leaders, students developed a workplan including the communication method, the content of the message to spread and the preferred intervention areas. They adopted an anticipatory approach since no confirmed case was not announced so far in the city of Ouahigouya.

Among the key actors involved in the organization of this activity we can list:

- At the hospital level, the team benefited from the support of most of their teachers and Internship Director. More specifically, a general practitioner has been appointed to support the team in the field.

- At the decentralized level, the Ouahigouya city hall headed by the Mayor, was also involved. The team noted they received a significant contribution from this authority in terms of collaboration for the agreement to conduct the activity and in terms of visibility.

- At the decentralized level i.e the government, the Provincial Directorate of Social Affairs was involved in mapping sensitive areas.

- Finally, at the community level, the coordination of HHI appreciated the frank collaboration of religious leaders which facilitated their entry into communities, local districts and houses. Youth leaders in local districts also played an important role in the process.

48 hours of awareness raising

Day 1 (April 01, 2020): on the first day the team went to downtown. From 9:00 a.m. to approximately 5:00 p.m., the team travelled around all the city’s major routes in a 4x4 vehicle equipped with a sound system. In three languages (French, Moore and Diula), they were explaining what the COVID-19 is, how it contaminates, how to prevent it and so. They were also stopping at some strategic places in the city and at the edge of traffic lights. The central market of Ouahigouya was an interesting stopping point for instance to raise passers-by awareness and conduct hand washing demonstration sessions.

The team on day 1
The HHI in a strategic place of the city

Day 2 (April 02, 2020): on that day, the team went to more remote places such as the most precarious districts of the city (sectors 5,6,7,8 and 9) and the periphery. This second day was also marked by the arrival participation of a team from the town hall, who came to encourage the HHI team. The content of the message focused on preventive measures and hand washing demonstration sessions with simple methods. The HHI team also donated soaps (2–4 balls) to every participant. A total of 104 households and groups of individuals (<50 people) were reached on that only day.

The HHI team in the market
The HHI team washing children hands in the street

In conclusion, the 48 hours of awareness although relatively brief, was widely positively appreciated by the various authorities involved and by the local community. It has made a great contribution in terms of raising the population awareness and training them on preventive measures against the new Coronavirus disease.

HHI team having a debrief session with the Mayor

The HHI team is fortified by this experience and all members are more engaged than ever conduct similar activities on a larger scale and with more ambitious objectives.

Mandela Washington Fellow, for Young African Leaders — Civic engagement — Development Cooperation, Economist, Project Management skills, Free learner