Raising awareness about COVID-19 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
MIDEFEHOPS focused on behavioural messaging as a key part of their crisis response
In July 2020, MIDEFEHOPS (International Movement for the Rights of Children, Women and Widowers and their Social Advancement) was one of eight national and local members selected to participate in a dedicated COVID-19 fund, with responses in the DRC, India, and Pakistan.
Following proposal reviews by project selection committees composed of in-country members, agencies were awarded £30,000 to respond to COVID-19 in their target area. MIDEFEHOPS used this funding to distribute masks and hygiene materials to vulnerable groups in Bunagana, Rwanguba health zone, as well as Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials, in the form of leaflets and posters, to convey behavioural messaging on how to protect against COVID-19.
Below is a short video produced by MIDEFEHOPS (with further editing and subtitles added by Start Network), providing an insight into the agency’s awareness raising campaign as we hear directly from those who have received assistance.
Isidore Kalimira, Coordinator, MIDEFEHOPS:
English: “We managed to get the message across about COVID-19 in the Bunagana health zone in Rwanguba territory because the population and their leaders were committed and involved both upstream and downstream in the implementation of the project activities.”
French: “Nous avons réussi à faire passer le message sur la COVID 19 dans l’aire de santé de Bunagana, zone de santé de Rwanguba, parce que la population et leurs dirigeants étaient engagés et impliquée en amont comme en aval dans la mise en œuvre des activités du projet.”
MIDEFEHOPS worked with community representatives and local leaders, as well as local radio stations, to inform communities about the importance of wearing masks, hand washing, and social distancing in protecting against the spread of COVID-19. Hygiene stations were also set up for public use where community members could wash their hands and learn more about the virus, while maintaining social distancing.
This focus on behavioural messaging was reinforced by the independent monitoring (IM) of the agency’s crisis response in Bunagana, where in-depth interviews were conducted with five households to gain a deeper perspective on the assistance received. The interviews were conducted in the local language, French, and translated into English.
38-year-old mother caring for a household of 7
English: “The members of the NGO MIDEFEHOPS gave me a bucket, basin and masks in September 2020, and we were made aware of how to protect ourselves against COVID-19. I would like to assure you that help arrived at the right time as it was at this time that our country and our province experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases, according to the local radio stations. The items we were provided were of good quality and allowed us to wash our hands regularly at home, and the mask protected us from COVID-19 at the market and at church. All of this has made a remarkable change in our daily lives [...] Today, me and my family know how this disease is transmitted, how to avoid it, and how to prevent sickness through proper handwashing.”
French: “Les membres de l’ONG MIDEFEHOPS m’ont remis un seau and un bassin, les cash nez au mois de septembre 2020 et au même moment nous étions sensibilisés sur la protection contre la Covid 19. Je tiens à rassurer l’aide est arrivée au bon moment car c’est a cette période que notre pays et notre province aussi connaissaient l’augmentation des cas selon les informations des radios locales. Les articles nous octroyés étaient de bonne qualité et ils nous ont permis de se laver régulièrement les mains à la maison et le cash nez nous protègent contre la Covid au marché et à l’église. Tout ceci a apporté un changement remarquable dans notre vie de chaque jour […] Aujourd’hui moi et ma famille, nous connaissons comment se transmet et comment éviter la cette maladie mais aussi comment prévenir les maladies des mains salles a travers le lavage correct des mains.”
73-year-old farmer from North-Kivu
English: “The NGO MIDEFEHOPS provided me with a hygiene kit consisting of a bucket, a small basin and five masks to protect us against this pandemic. The NGO communicated to us that the whole world is affected, even our country and our province of North Kivu. The members of the NGO also made us aware of methods for preventing COVID-19, through messages on handwashing, social distancing and wearing masks. These messages have helped me a lot as the most vulnerable people are older people like me. So, today I know how to protect myself and prevent this disease.”
French: “L’ONG MIDEFEHOPS m’a donné un kit de lavage composé d’un seau, un petit bassin et cinq cash nez pour nous protéger contre cette pandémie. L’ONG nous a montré que le monde entier est touché même notre pays et notre province du Nord Kivu. Les membres de l’ONG nous ont aussi plusieurs fois sensibilisé sur la prévention de la Covid avec des messages sur le lavage des mains, la distanciation sociale, le port des cash nez, Etc. Ces messages m’ont beaucoup aidé dans la mesure où les personnes les plus vulnérables sont celles de 3eme âge comme moi. Alors a ce jour, je sais comment me protéger et prévenir cette maladie.”
Retired pastor and member of a household of 9
English: “Between the end of August and September, the community relays sent by the NGO MIDEFEHOPS brought us awareness messages on the prevention of COVID-19. It was a good opportunity for me as a leader in the church as these are messages that we also shared in group meetings [...] I am happy that my family members, and my brothers and sisters in Christ, have received the COVID-19 prevention messages. There has been a huge change [in behaviour] because we wear masks that are made locally, and the messages have been internalised.”
French: “Entre la fin du mois d’Aout et celui de Septembre, les relais communautaires envoyés par l’ONG MIDEFEHOPS nous ont amener des messages sensibilisation sur la prévention contre la COVID-19. C’était une bonne opportunité pour moi en tant que leader dans l’église. Ce sont des messages que nous partageons aussi dans les réunions de cellules […] Je suis heureux du fait que les membres de ma famille, et les mes ferres et sœurs en Christ, reçoivent régulièrement les messages de prévention. Et il y a un changement énorme car nous portons des masques qui sont fabriqués localement et on a intériorisé les messages.”
As well as providing masks and hygiene materials, MIDEFEHOPS recognised the importance of educating and informing community members to protect themselves against COVID-19, as well as involving local leaders and community representatives in programme design and delivery. Interviewees talked about how little was known about COVID-19 before MIDEFEHOPS’ intervention and how they have been able to change their behaviour as a result, taking practical steps to protect themselves and their families.
MIDEFEHOPS was one of three new members responding to COVID-19 in the DRC, along with Caritas Goma and AFPDE (Association des Femmes pour la Promotion et le Développement Endogène).
We would like to thank MIDEFEHOPS for providing the above video, Translators Without Borders for providing transcripts of the footage, and Pascal Kabamba for conducting the interviews with targeted households.