COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT DURING COVID-19

Posted by ruben-pillai
Government measures in response to the outbreak have included severe restrictions on movement and physical distancing, which will inevitably impact the way we engage communities. This document provides key messages and practical tips for such community engagement. 1. Technologies Consider engaging communities through different technologies. Online means, such as WhatsApp, allow for communication through both text and audio messages. Mobile networks can support hotlines, phone trees or simple phone calls. Where mobile networks are either not present or unstable, two-way radios can be an alternative. 2. Material support Make sure communities have the means to use these technologies! This includes the provision of portable radios, phones, phone credit, free Wi-Fi hotspots and even megaphones. 3. Accessibility Make sure to engage all groups, in both host and displaced communities, in environments where everyone can feel comfortable to speak up. Adapt the way you communicate to reach each group, which may require using simple language or communicating messages through alternative audio-visual means. 4. Focal points Identify focal points within communities and keep them informed. Build on existing leadership, such as community leaders, traditional healers, teachers and religious figures. Women are often overlooked, even though they are primary caretakers and first responders in emergencies, so make active efforts to identify women focal points. 5. Gender sensitivity Adapt remote engagement tools based on the roles of women, men, boys and girls. For example, if using radio messaging, evening spots can ensure that women and girls are reached, as they may have responsibilities during the day. 6. Collective effort We will need all the help we can get! Be ready to assign staff and community volunteers new tasks. They may have to work in different sectors – e.g. WASH, EFSVL or Protection – simultaneously, especially when there are few entry points to a community. Ensure all staff and volunteers receive a clear briefing on risks, and ensure they know they have the right to refuse to perform tasks that make them feel uncomfortable and/or unsafe. 7. Advocacy Advocacy can contribute to the continuity of community engagement. Depending on the context, consider developing advocacy strategies that include issues such as digital rights or discrimination against NGOs and civil society. These could be key to guaranteeing people’s access to information and preserve humanitarian space. Physical distancing will also affect how community members engage each other. Here are some tips for Oxfam volunteers and other community members we work with. 8. Door-to-door activities During door-to-door distributions, community focal points can leave items at the door of the household for collection, rather than handing them over directly. For verbal exchanges, prioritize talking through the door. 9. Information sharing Community volunteers can use WhatsApp groups to stay in touch with each other and other community members, allowing for the sharing and gathering of information on key developments. When this is not an option, information can be passed on through information trees, either by phone or in person, following the advice above on door-to-door activities. As a last resort, megaphones can be used to spread messages – this is less ideal as it does not allow for two-way communication. 10. Face-to-face Community members may still resort to face-to-face interactions. 11. Isolation strategies Specific groups, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, will have more difficulties dealing with Covid-19 once they are infected. Work with communities to find achievable ways to protect these high risk groups from transmission, such as isolating those who are more vulnerable in their homes, whilst ensuring their access to essential services continues. 12. Solidarity strategies Support communities’ solidarity strategies. These can include support groups for collecting water, food and other necessities for those most at risk. Suggest using simple signage systems for homes self-isolating or in need of support. While signage systems will have to be adapted to each context, they could be as simple as leaving an object by the door or writing a symbol on the wall. These measures can reduce physical contact between community members while also supporting basic welfare. 13. Hygiene Consider providing handwashing stations in places convenient for the community, especially if they are still undertaking group activities. Handwashing facilities are also essential near markets. Consider using cashless systems where possible, including remote transfers. Sourced from https://reliefweb.int/report/world/community-engagement-during-covid-19-13-practical-tips

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