Combating the spread of COVID-19 through strengthening hygiene behavior: Lessons from 10 counties

by Amref Health Africa

When the Amref Health Africa in Kenya Hygiene Behaviour Change Coalition team set out to develop a project to combat the spread of the novel COVID-19, we were very cautious in what we wanted to do! Kenya was awash with behaviour change messaging that was direct but didn’t speak to the different contextual issues that influence a community. In the spirit of Ubuntu, we embarked on bringing different partners together to tailor messages to various communities we were targeting. We developed a campaign that was specific to different contexts as well as impactful in the delivery of the positive hygiene behaviour messages.

We gathered the following lessons for implementing a successful behavior change programme, over a short period of time:

A mask mural in Mombasa County

1. Leverage on expertise: being an emergency project, we had to get quick wins in combating the spread of COVID-19. By getting the experts into our team, we were able to quickly assess the situation and map out the different messages that were out there and how ordinary citizens relate to them. The assessment provided us with clear pathways on how, who, and when to deliver our messaging for impactful Behaviour. The expertise was very critical in using data and harnessing its power for action.

2. Measuring results can help expand the programme: One of the most common problems with a behaviour change program is quantifying its success. Are we flattening the curve because people are masking or is it that people are not being tested? Demonstrating tangible success like this is also a good way to get mandate to go and deliver the initiative more broadly. Our efforts to track our success

was affirmed by a donor by giving us the mandate to expand the programme by committing to support public health facilities through donation of handwashing stations.

3. Build from ground Up; Developing an Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) training manual in collaboration of Public health officers was imperative in getting frontline health workers to be active stakeholders in designing intervention programmes. Giving communities the driver’s sit in developing key messages was vital in building ownership as well as accelerate the acceptance of the messages. Young people from Mvita developed a talking mural that has been passing critical messages to Mombasa residents. Using rights based approach has streamlined behaviour change, including aligning community actions to rewarding incentives for thriving community health.

Empower people: It is important to work with communities by enhancing their capacities and empowering them to take charge of their actions. Our work in the 10 counties involved handing over Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)s and training frontline health workers in Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) as well as mainstreaming marginalized communities People with Disabilities (PWDs) to also take action to protect themselves against COVID-19. By empowering people were able to tap to the energy and zeal of communities to be champions for change in their own right.

Handing over 150 handwashing stations to Mombasa County Government

4. Communicate Impact: Impact, just like success, needs to be shared for all to have the experience. Success and its related lessons must be made available for others to learn, adopt and adapt for scaling.

We are living in a world where people are connected digitally, therefore, making everything available at a click of a button. It is therefore important that impact, whether positive or negative, be communicated regularly and timely for others to learn to deliver better services to ensure healthy and thriving communities.

Author: Raymond Obare, Communications and Advocacy Officer, HBCC, Project; Amref Health Africa in Kenya.

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