A recent one- day workshop on COVID-19 Risk Communication Strategy successfully held to review all risk communication activities that the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS), Health Promotion Department, together with its communication partners have been implementing and to discuss potential effective and efficient ways forward.
Early this year since the declaration of the COVID-19 as a global pandemic by WHO, the Ministry of Health’s Health Promotion Unit, have mobilized communication partners, consisting mostly of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) to assist with the dissemination of COVID-19 information and its preventative measures.
Activities implemented so far includes, dissemination of COVID-19 information and preventative messages to households both in the capital and the provinces through church announcements, Our Telekom and Bmobile SMSs, radio spots and talk shows on radio stations, billboards and distribution of IECs ( Information, Communication and Education) Materials. This also includes several power point presentations to government ministries, private sectors and so forth.
Throughout the review, COVID-19 risk communication partners have all appreciated each other’s work and based on experiences, observations as well as a tracking survey conducted have all agreed that COVID-19 information and its key preventative measures have reached a substantial number of people across the country. However, there was also an agreement that there remains the challenge of actually transforming these knowledge into daily practices.
Solomon Islands Red Cross (SIRC) Health Manager, Joana Tatalu, highlighted during SIRC’s presentation that behavior change communication at community and even family level is critical if efforts forward is to transform knowledge into practice. “ Based on activities implemented we are pleased to have reached over 32,000 people with COVID-19 messages however, people need to start transforming these knowledge into their daily lives and we can support them through community empowerment and behavior change communication with provision of relevant supplies such as hygiene kits to assist them”.
Similar sentiments was also echoed by World Vision Operation’s Manager, Katy Sevese “ We have reached an estimated number of around 25, 000 beneficiaries with COVID-19 information and key messages including hygiene kits which have really helped families to frequently practice hand washing with soap. As such dissemination of key messages is more effective when enabling products are also provided”, explained Mrs. Sevese.
Many of the key highlights, lessons learnt and recommended ways forward by risk communication partners have been noted and will be used to inform a proposed way forward to ensuring community empowerment to take ownership and lead their communities and families with COVID-19 preventative measures.
MHMS’s Undersecretary Health Improvement and Incident Controller, Dr. Nemia Bainivalu acknowledged the continued support from partners towards MHMS’s risk communication activities in the past months. “I sincerely thank you all for your support towards national health efforts against COVID-19. Without your support, we would not have reached the significant number of people reached so far with COVID-19 information and preventative measures. Being informed is the first step towards taking action thus the Ministry of Health is very grateful and looks forward for continued support in transforming knowledge into practice”.
COVID-19 risk communication partners included World Vision, Solomon Islands Red Cross, Oxfam and its Side by Side project, Planned International Australia, UNICEF, People With Disability Solomon Islands, Health Promotion Honiara City Council, Health Promotion Guadalcanal Province, Young Women, Christain Association (YWCA), Solomon Islands Deaf Association, Live and learn, Cause Project, Save the Children, and Solomon Islands Planned Parenthood Association (SIPPA).