To help combat COVID-19 in Africa, Sightsavers has joined forces with M&C Saatchi World Services to produce new awareness campaigns that will reach millions of people.
The COVID-19 prevention messaging will appear in nine West And Central African countries on radio, television and social media and also on billboards and leaflets. It aims to combat misinformation as well as focus on the need for hand washing, physical distancing and wearing masks.
Supported by UK aid, the messaging is being produced in collaboration with national ministries of health and in partnership with local non-governmental organisations and local media partners.
The work forms part of an innovative adaptation and response to the pandemic by the Ascend West and Central Africa programme. Led by Sightsavers and a consortium of partners including SCI Foundation, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and Mott MacDonald, the Ascend programme is also training health workers to track and trace COVID-19 cases and offering ministries of health logistical support around infrastructure and planning.
Launched in September last year, Ascend is working to protect 200 million people across 13 countries from five neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The programme paused some of its work when the pandemic broke out, and staff expertise and resources were redirected to the COVID-19 response in 11 of the 13 Ascend countries.
Simon Bush, director of NTDs for Sightsavers, said: “This is a global crisis which needs a global response, and it is vital we use all the tools at our disposal to get health messages and assistance to as many people as possible.
“Many health systems have been struggling to meet the challenges of this devastating pandemic, but in some of the communities where we work the health systems are even less able to cope.
“Adapting our programmes means we not only help with the global recovery, we also ensure we can continue to treat and eliminate neglected tropical diseases too.”
The COVID-19 prevention messaging, which will be delivered in Benin, Burkino Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone will be tailored to meet the needs of individual countries. It will also reach out to marginalised groups, such as people with disabilities, nomadic pastoral populations and those in distant rural communities.
The work also helps in the battle to eliminate NTDs. A clear example is messaging around hand washing, which is key to tackling NTDs such as intestinal worms and trachoma.