Large-Scale Hygiene Behaviour Change Initiative Launches in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to Combat COVID-19

By Maureen Cherongis
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Nairobi, 28th July 2022. Amidst an increase in COVID-19 infections in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, key stakeholders - Amref Health Africa, Unilever and the National Business Compact on Coronavirus (NBCC), among other partners have unveiled a refreshed behaviour change campaign in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Targeting 75 million people in the three countries by April 2023, the initiative aims at scaling up the fight against COVID-19 by influencing the adoption of hygiene behaviours to help protect lives and livelihoods from the pandemic.

Amref-NBCC are activating the project as part of the global Hygiene and Behavior Change Coalition 2 (HBCC 2) funded by Unilever and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

According to the Amref Health Africa Group CEO, Dr Gitahi Githinji, key messages driven during the previous project (HBCC 1) on masking up, handwashing and social distancing positively affected health metrics in the targeted communities. He said, “while our initial agenda was to slow down the rate of infections of the virus, together with our partners, we were able to develop tools and identify new touch-points that helped us to accrue multiple benefits that today demand reinforcement to avoid regression and erosion of gains made.”

Health CAS - Dr Ann Mwangangi celebrated the coalition partners, terming their efforts as a true manifestation of humanity. She said, “selfless giving of time, resources and know-how by the coalition partners not only complements government’s efforts in the war against COVID-19 but also introduced non-traditional partners into the health conversation.” She noted that the use of influencers, youth, digital platforms, puppets, campaign slogans and more not only refreshed the conversation but infused new and productive approaches that had not previously been thought of.

Noting the increased infection numbers in the East Africa region, and ongoing vaccination drives, Dr Mwangangi emphasised the need to sustain the fight until victory is declared against COVID-19. She highlighted that complacency would make us lose momentum on the progress achieved through initiatives like HBCC 1. She added, “with discipline and collective intent, we can raise the bar on our basic health standards and overall wellness.”

Amref-NBCC’s activations as part of HBCC 2 will incorporate a number of former and new partners to amplify and strengthen the partnerships.

NBCC secretariat Chair and Brands on a Mission founder Prof. Myriam Sidibe articulated the efforts of Amref-NBCC in the earlier project (HBCC 1) to sustainably improve preventative hygiene practices, thus protecting lives and livelihoods in the first year of the pandemic. Prof. Sidibe highlighted that the observation of key hygiene practices, including regular handwashing with soap, mask wearing and social distancing, significantly reduced incidences of hospitalisation for respiratory and hygiene-based diseases. This improvement of the general health of our communities also helped reduce strain on already overstretched medical services, particularly during the first year of the pandemic.

Targeting the region, HBCC 2 seeks to drive public awareness on COVID-19 prevention, and long-term behaviour change related to hygiene practices as well as promoting vaccinations among the targeted communities. The campaign also aims at improving access to hygiene products and handwashing facilities by donating hand-washing equipment to 375 healthcare facilities. It will also strengthen health systems through advocacy and the training of 10,100 Community Health Workers (CHWs) and staff while also placing great emphasis on reaching the most vulnerable populations, including persons with disabilities, mothers, children and young people. Importantly, it intends to create sustainable change, ensuring that knowledge, infrastructure and capacity is built into communities in the long-term.

To date, over 30 organisations have partnered with Amref-NBCC, ranging from digital media agencies to social businesses, community organisations, retail companies, funding partners, and more. All are aligned with the core goals, with each one bringing something different to the mission of refreshing public commitment to hygiene and self-protective social behaviours.