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Rockefeller foundation offers covid-19 support to Nakuru

The County Government of Nakuru in partnership with the Human Vaccination Action Network (VAN) is implementing a project to strengthen surveillance and responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Governor Susan Kihika said lack of Covid-19 information, misinformation, disinformation and limited access to services are among key factors slowing down vaccine uptake in Nakuru.

The 12-month project dubbed ‘Social Behaviour Change Communication Strategy’ (SBCCS), funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and managed by AMREF through Population Services Kenya (PSK) is focusing on all the 11 sub-counties with the goal of increasing Covid-19 vaccine uptake through local mobilization and social media engagements and providing psychosocial support to individuals affected by the pandemic.

“We are going to work closely with the office of the county commissioner, religious leaders and any other relevant institutions to ensure that our objectives are achieved. Through the project the sensitization campaigns and vaccination drives will be ramped up, especially among elderly people and those with underlying health conditions,” Ms Kihika said.

She lamented that some residents could not get the right information about vaccines, thus allowing room for myths to spread.

“This is the reason why some of them have not been vaccinated to date. Nakuru has over 43 percent of its population fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The project targets to increase this by 20 percent every quarter for those under 18 years and by 10 percent over the same period for adults,” added the County boss.

Ms Kihika asked Kenyans to heed preventive measures and ensure that they do not forget that the virus is still here with us.

“We need to continue washing our hands and observe social distancing when in public places. We should also wear masks in confined spaces such as offices and matatus. I am not saying that there is an outbreak, but let’s observe all the measures,” she said.

The Governor noted that though stringent efforts by both the County and national government had helped in the immediate adoption of personal protective measures, these could only be sustained in the long run by bringing about lasting behaviour change by undertaking effective social and behaviour change communication which she stated was key to saving lives.

While stating that the initiative targets to have anyone above 15 years vaccinated, with emphasis on high-risk populations such as frontline workers, immune-compromised individuals and the elderly, Ms Kihika underscored the importance of the role of community health volunteers in promoting primary health care, rallying them to mobilize communities to focus on their health and well- being.

She called on religious institutions, schools, and opinion leaders to sensitize the community on the need to take up the Covid-19 vaccination jab.

“We should increase vaccination efforts, especially booster shots for adults, particularly the high-risk groups,” she said.

Mrs Kihika added “Vaccination is important but the government cannot force people to get it. Instead, we are increasing sensitization and making the vaccine available even in the villages,”

Deputy Chief Executive Officer at PSK- Kenya Dr Margaret Njenga said they would be willing to partner with civil society groups to sensitize locals about Covid-19 vaccines to counter misinformation and disinformation before administering jabs to them.

She said the initiative will design publicity campaigns aimed at educating citizens on the health risks of Covid-19 and promoting desired behaviours to prevent infection.

“Messages for the prevention of COVID-19 should be clear and consistent and should be based on scientific evidence. Our messages will be reinforced to promote positive behaviour change, will be empathetic and inclusive and will counter misinformation and fake news,” Dr Njenga assured.

The Deputy Director affirmed that the most effective way to protect people from COVID-19 and to minimize the burden it places on the public health system was to promote widespread behaviour change adding that this can only happen through the collaborative efforts of the government, media, public health experts, and civil society organizations.

She indicated that effective Social Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) should be participatory and inclusive so that it reaches out to vulnerable populations and develops a response that takes the local context into consideration.

“A positive communication strategy which focuses on inspiring people to adopt healthy behaviours as well as to become agents of change has greater potential to succeed in the fight against Covid-19 scourge. There is enough evidence to suggest that people are more likely to adopt healthy behaviours when they observe their peers doing the same. In contrast, a communication strategy based on negative messaging and intimidation can backfire by enhancing societal fear and anxiety,” Dr Njenga explained.

She added “SBCC messaging on COVID-19 must be empathetic and considerate. For example, how do we recommend hand-washing to those who have inadequate access to water and sanitation? How do we motivate communities who live in crowded houses in slums to physically distance themselves?

The campaign will also highlight the issue of stigma, and positive messages on kindness and gratitude to healthcare workers. It will further promote non-discriminatory messages to families that have been affected by Covid-19.

By Jane Ngugi and Jackline Jepkorir



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