The Netherlands is currently funding a peer-to-peer awareness-raising campaign that empowers young people in West Africa to make informed decisions about migration.
The project, Migrants as Messengers is however in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic. It is a campaign project of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) that is raising awareness to prevent the spread of the disease.
Youthful volunteers across West Africa are spreading the word in vulnerable communities.
The 248 volunteers from seven West African countries are returning migrants, trained in peer-to-peer communication. They provide a critical link when disseminating information on COVID-19 to remote areas.
Collectively, these volunteers have produced over 70 COVID-19 awareness-raising products on multimedia platforms that are specific to individual cultural contexts. They often use local languages or dialects.
A Migrants as Messenger volunteer in The Gambia, Ebrima Sambo, explains “as a returnee, this is a very important undertaking for me. I believe that the COVID–19 outbreak affects migrants disproportionately. I am really honoured that, despite the challenges right now, I am playing my part to fight COVID–19 in my country.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit a total of 52 African countries, among which 23 are in West and Central Africa.
While the virus was slow to reach the continent compared to other parts of the world, the infection has grown exponentially in recent weeks and continues to spread. West Africa has 3,202 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Côte d’Ivoire: Migrants as Messengers volunteers produced and disseminated 32 videos to raise awareness about the virus, and distributed prevention kits to communities (handwashing stations, soap and hydro-alcoholic solutions) coordinating with Regional Committees to Combat Irregular Migration (CRLMI).
The Gambia: Migrants as Messengers volunteers have produced a photo and video social media campaign, encouraging regular handwashing, cough etiquette, social distancing and staying at home.
While in Guinea the volunteers trained in COVID-19 awareness-raising techniques support authorities battling the virus. Volunteers produce prevention videos and will train mothers on preventive measures, in Liberia, they produced awareness-raising videos and comic strips promoting basic hygiene measures. They also assisted in opening handwashing stations.
Volunteers in Nigeria produced two awareness-raising videos on hygiene prevention measures and support the #Stayhome challenge, where volunteers explain the initiatives, they are doing at home to motivate peers to promote physical distancing.
In Senegal, the volunteers produced a photo campaign dispelling COVID-19 myths, as well as two short videos in the Wolof language shared through WhatsApp, and in Sierra Leone, they wrote and produced the song Corona Virus is Real. The song, in Krio language, is being distributed on social media and through WhatsApp.
IOM’s Regional Migration and Health Thematic Specialist for West and Central Africa, Viviane Nzeusseu, says a key lesson IOM and other organisations learned from the Ebola crisis hitting the region in 2014 is the importance of community involvement.
“It is crucial to include communities in communications and ensure that tailored messaging is conveyed through effective communication channels. Acceptance at the local level is critical in mitigating risks of contamination”, she says.
Watch the song Corona Virus is Real from Sierra Leone.