UNMISS helps dispel misinformation on COVID-19 through five-day mobile awareness in Western Equatoria
As COVID-19 continues to cast a pall over the world creating health and safety risks for everyone, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is doing everything it can to support the efforts made on the national-led response to mitigate the impact of the virus.
In Yambio and Anzara, UNMISS through its Communication and Public Information section has partnered with the State Taskforce on COVID-19 to address misconceptions about the virus and complement efforts made by government authorities to tackle the pandemic.
This has taken the form of a five-day mobile awareness drive using a tricycle with mounted loudspeakers broadcasting key preventative measures approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). This tricycle is travelling through major residential neighbourhoods and business centres in the towns as well as nearby villages. The messages are of course being broadcast in local languages widely spoken here.
“While many concerned civil society groups and actors, including government authorities, have gone door-to-door to raise awareness on the preventative measures that every individual needs to take to stop the spread of this pandemic, we still need to do more because now there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Yambio,” said Wilson Thomas, Chairperson, State COVID-19 Task Force, Gbudue. “Essential measures like physical distancing do not come easily to the South Sudanese because of our cultural norms; therefore, we must keep driving the need to take these preventive actions home constantly since COVID-19 is a dangerous disease and there is no vaccination or cure for it yet,” he added.
For his part, Tahiru Ibrahim, Acting Head of Field Office, UNMISS Yambio, also flagged the dangers of local communities not adhering to the rules set by the government and the WHO such as frequent handwashing and wearing facemasks. “It is our hope that through such awareness-raising initiatives, UNMISS and our national partners can contribute to the intensive risk communications already being rolled out by our humanitarian partners such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), who have also distributed face masks to community members,” he stated. “It is our duty to fortify these efforts and amplify ways to stay safe among the local populations because COVID-19 is a real threat that is showing no signs of dissipating soon,” added Mr. Ibrahim.
Dr. John Lagu, a WHO representative, thanked UNMISS for its contributions to sensitizing people living in Western Equatoria and reiterated that the confirmation of a positive case in Yambio requires everyone to exercise constant vigilance to protect themselves and those around them.
Residents, too, have expressed their gratefulness for the mobile broadcasts and have urged UNMISS to roll out similar programmes in more remote areas since not everyone in Western Equatoria has access to radio broadcasts and public service announcements. “I am very grateful to learn about how to protect myself, my family and my friends through these mobile broadcasts by UNMISS. What makes them effective is that they use simple language that everyone can understand, specially someone like me who is not very educated. I hope my countrymen who live in remote areas will also benefit from similar, easy-to-comprehend sensitization on COVID-19,” commented John Nambazia, a traditional singer.
The mission intends to launch similar campaigns in Tombura, Maridi and Mundri in coming days.