Fighting epidemics such as COVID-19 requires collaboration from all. When trust between communities and health officials is low, response efforts are often blocked by failing health systems and missed opportunities to respond quickly and effectively.
In Senegal and Burkina Faso, our 12-month project “Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) Capacity Building Support for Emergency Operations Centres” addresses the immediate pandemic and lays the foundation for more robust health systems based on collaboration between communities and national and regional health officials.
With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we engage key community stakeholders to jointly develop work plans with health officials for coherent national and regional RCCE interventions based on their respective priorities.
As part of these plans, our teams provide health officials training on RCCE topics, such as rumor management, social behavior change communication techniques, community engagement methods, and early warning and response systems. With their new skills, government actors can now train frontline community workers to deal with the pandemic and future health crises.
Besides, we support health officials to work with a broader group of local leaders and community partners at the regional level to implement the work plans. Activities may include training community health workers, religious leaders, media, or civil society organizations to create awareness campaigns for hard-to-reach communities.
At the end of these interventions, government stakeholders will better understand RCCE practices, their key community interlocutors, and how to engage them, thereby increasing public trust and collaboration for sustainable government-community systems.