The United State Agency for International Development (USAID) is helping the Nigerian government provide critical information about how to avoid contracting COVID-19 to more than a million of its citizens a day.
The nationwide awareness-raising campaign is part of a broader U.S. government support, with $6.7 million already pledged, to bolster Nigeria’s efforts to prevent and respond to the spread of the virus. USAID has teamed up with communications giant Airtel to deploy both Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and short message service (SMS) platforms to deliver key messages around social distancing, safe hygiene practices, and other preventive measures to contain the spread of the disease.
The effort is part of the #TakeResponsibility campaign launched by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and designed by partners, including USAID that encourages social media users to play their part in stopping the spread of COVID-19. #TakesResponsibility shares personal anecdotes on lifestyle changes that have been adopted as well as providing tips on self-isolating, limiting social interactions, and caring for others at a distance.
USAID, in collaboration with the NCDC and other partners, will develop and broadcast a series of radio jingles – short and accessible messages with a song at the end – aired in collaboration with local radio stations to reach specific audiences better. Additional corporate partnerships are anticipated to further amplify the messaging further.
“This support from USAID has further strengthened our capacity to respond to the needs and challenges of the outbreak, particularly in the area of risk management communications,” said Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, NCDC’s Director General.
These efforts, implemented by Breakthrough Action – Nigeria under a $500,000 USAID award through the Global Health Emergency Reserve Fund, align with the Government of Nigeria’s evolving response plans, which seek to implement measures to contain the outbreak. As with the Ebola virus outbreak, risk communication is a critical pillar of Nigeria’s COVID-19 response with an emphasis on sensitizing communities on preventive and protective measures, reducing stigmatization and dispelling myths and rumors related to the pandemic.
USAID is coordinating with local authorities and partners to track and respond to misinformation, ensure communities know how to protect themselves from COVID-19, know how to seek assistance and take responsibility for local surveillance and reporting. As announced on March 26, the U.S. government is providing $6.7 million in USAID International Development Assistance health and humanitarian funding for the COVID-19 response. These funds will go toward risk communication, water and sanitation activities, infection prevention and control, and coordination. This assistance is in addition to the more than $5.2 billion in U.S. health assistance and more than $8.1 billion in total assistance the State Department and USAID have provided Nigeria over the past 20 years.