To curb the spread of Coronavirus disease (COVID -19), the Government of South Sudan and health actors are advocating for infection control in the country. Prevention measures have been put in place; however, these will only be effective if the majority of community members implement them fully.
Our project in South Sudan, the Health Pooled Fund (HPF) is joining efforts with the Government to ensure that communities are engaged and involved at all levels to fight COVID-19. HPF is the largest provider of basic health services in South Sudan, it aims to reduce child and maternal deaths and strengthen the health system, working with all levels of government to provide technical training, mentoring and supervision.
Working with Boma Health Initiative (BHI), HPF is training Boma Health Workers (BHWs) to deliver simple messages on Coronavirus prevention to communities in South Sudan. A job aid has been developed in line with the approved risk communication in South Sudan. The job aid explains in detail the five steps one needs to take to protect themselves against COVID-19.
Through the BHI, HPF trains BHWs to deliver a standardised, integrated basic package of promotional, preventive, and selected curative health services focusing on child health. BHWs also act as an extension of basic health services between the nearest health facility and the Bomas.
The National Coordinator for BHI in the Ministry of Health (MoH), Anguei Mayuot Solomon who has been working with HPF said: “MoH appreciates HPF’s effort in the fight against Covid-19 in South Sudan starting with the recently concluded training on preparedness and response in Juba County. This job aid is a very powerful tool that will help us communicate the same information across the country with minimal distortion.”
“The communication materials from HPF will have a huge impact in the South Sudan fight against Coronavirus. HPF has produced and is disseminating posters and job aids to eight states and over 800 health facilities. These will help the communities understand the disease and how to prevent it,” he added.
With current challenges affecting access to healthcare, and additional restrictions to movement and association in place, the BHWs will play a very important role in disseminating relevant risk communication messages within the communities.
HPF has designed and produced 11,500 posters, 8,000 of these are in 16 local languages and 3500 are in English. Additionally, the programme also developed a Boma Health Workers job aid to assist in ensuring standardisation of messaging across communities. Each BHW will receive a copy which would help them in facilitating health talks within their communities. 5,500 job aids have been produced and will be delivered to County Health Departments and to BHWs for response activities.
“This is a very important tool for the BHWs, it will give them all the relevant information they need for Coronavirus risk communication and will act as a reference in case they forget.” Grace Lajul, HPF community health specialist.Evidence has shown that community health programmes such as integrated community case management for communicable diseases and neglected tropical diseases have been successful in other Sub Saharan countries such as DRC during the Ebola outbreaks. Communities asked for responders who were local, familiar and spoke local languages.
A key lesson from DRC Ebola crisis was that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to community engagement is not effective. Each community is unique, and engagement should be hyper-contextualised to specifically respond to the needs of each of the affected communities.