“I’m going to protect my community from the spread of COVID-19 by going door to door to raise awareness,” vows James Taban Ben.
He is one of 87 youth from Eastern Equatoria who received special training from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan to become “community influencers” in the fight against the virus which is hitting hard in communities across the country.
In Eastern Equatoria, there is a strong culture of shaking hands to greet people, communal eating and attending funerals in large numbers. It is hoped that the newly trained youngsters will help educate others about the risks of this kind of behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic so that local communities can work together to prevent the virus spreading.
The trainees will use posters and informational pamphlets explaining the risks in multiple languages to assist them in their task.
“I want to volunteer and talk particularly to women and elderly people about the danger of COVID-19 to their lives,” said Ihure Gloria Moring. “I will make sure I persuade them to have handwashing containers and soap available as one of the ways they can protect themselves and others.”
The training was organized by the Civil Affairs Division of the United Nations’ Field Office in Eastern Equatoria in coordination with the Torit Task Force on COVID 19, Impact Health Organization and Generation Initiative Organization. The training sessions were held in Ikotos town, Imotong and Hatire Payams, Mutaram and Kudo where awareness-raising on COVID-19 had not previously been conducted.
“The training of these frontline workers and community influencers will stop misinformation on COVID-19,” said Tiko Alice, a program manager working for Generation Initiative. “The communities of Ikotos, Imotong and Hatire payams have also formed special taskforce committees to sensitize and respond to COVID-19 among communities that live in remote mountainous areas.”
The United Nations Mission’s main objective is to create awareness about how to prevent COVID-19 within Torit state as well as to build the resilience of local authorities and communities to respond to the pandemic.
“Our implementing partners have better access to various locations outside Torit and speak the local languages; therefore messages and the sanitation items we are providing will reach out to a larger population with the aim to save many lives,” said Caroline Waudo, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Eastern Equatoria.