WASH initiative’s response to COVID | Blogs

When designing the campaigns with M & C Saatchi World Services and their partner network across Africa, we tried to understand and take into account the different cultural and information needs of the countries and regions in them.

In Nigeria, for example, we used the slogan “Spread the truth, not the virus” because we had to take into account not only local differences in knowledge, language, religion and local clothing, but also what kind of misinformation was being spread.

In Benin we have been told that some religious leaders and herbalists may reveal false information that they believed to be true. However, because they are one of the pillars of more traditional communities, we understand that they can play an important role in spreading the right information. For example, a religious leader in Porto-Novo claimed in a focus group discussion to determine the knowledge, attitudes and practices of communities against COVID-19 in Benin that he was avoiding the virus by drinking “sodabi,” the local alcohol of the Country morning.

In these focus groups, the saying “Alodokpo non klo ka a”, which means “one hand does not wash the bowl”, was also discussed. This suggests that the government cannot deal with COVID-19 on its own. So it is important that they employ local guides and well known healers to aid in the response.

We also understood the importance of using relevant cultural symbols. In Nigeria, a thermometer is not used to indicate a fever in an area where the population has never seen one. Instead, it was culturally more appropriate and effective to portray a person trembling and wrapped in blankets. Also, our communication materials had to show the right kind of community hand washing stations and one meter distance examples so that posters would instead show a bucket faucet as opposed to a modern faucet and a tuc tuc (or “keke”) as opposed to a shopping cart.

In Nigeria we used the slogan “Spread the truth, not the virus”.

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