‘MASERU – A new partnership intended to assist in the minimisation of COVID-19 infection risks through appropriate educational products has been established.
Brought together by the Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) and the UNDP for the LRCS youth the project also targets other peers in response to the Covid spread and severity – focusing on cultural behavioural change.
The effort is informed by an observation that ongoing educational programmes largely use general messages for the public without zooming into youth specific information requirements.
The UNDP funded the project with M480 000 for a duration of five months.
Although public awareness has largely been done by many stakeholders under the guidance of the Ministry of Health, it has been established that there are cultural and routine practices that continue to happen in the usual cultural set-ups contrary to WHO recommended social distancing guidelines; and while a proper documentation may still be needed to enlist ongoing cultural practices, general observation confirms this to date.
Funeral activities, especially grave digging, animal slaughter, food preparations and burials which are done communally (letsema), social gatherings, weddings, picnics, birthday celebrations, family and/or society groups (mekhatlo) meetings and other shared habits such as social drinking and smoking .
Matšeliso Ratii, LRCS planning, monitoring, evaluation and reporting officer emphasized that though most youth might be aware of and know something about COVID-19 they needed training if they are to disseminate proper information to their peers and family members,
“Some do not believe the Coronavirus exists in the because of the inconsistencies in the National Covid-19 Secretariat’s reporting on the pandemic, and this leads to continued risky behaviour like sharing of cigarettes, bottles of beer, shaking of hands and kissing,” she continued, adding that the most likely preferred medium of information dissemination for this group would television, social media platforms and radio.
The project aims to provide youth with an opportunity to lead education activities to reduce risk behaviour among youth aged 18 to 35 related to COVID-19.
The project also intends to challenge cultural and risky habits in the hot spot districts of Botha-Bothe, Leribe, Maseru and Mafeteng and identify areas prone to increased infection in these districts.
This will be done by mapping of existing youth groups in the villages around borders and in bus terminals, as these are grounded areas with potential for Covid spread.
It is envisaged that the identified youth in the border villages will be targeted with education through creation of covid WhatsApp groups for information sharing and the possibility of drama performances will also be mapped in the context of restricted movement in bus and taxi terminals. The mapping exercise will also identify critical PPE needs to be addressed through this project.
LRCS will document these practices and develop counter strategies to influence behavioural change in relation to social norms; changing community behaviour by correcting misconceptions through relevant public messages reinforcing positive (health-promoting) norms.
This is done through community awareness campaigns, which are entirely depended on LRCS community based volunteers.