Scouts Leading Youth Action Against COVID-19 in Niger
To complement the measures taken by the government in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, the Association des Scouts du Niger, in partnership with UNICEF, launched a public awareness campaign dubbed "Niger's Youth Taking Action Against COVID-19", at an individual and group level. The campaign came after coronavirus Niger registered more than 800 infections and 43 deaths in May 2020.
The campaign aims to combat the spread of the epidemic through mass awareness-raising in urban and rural populations and the establishment of Community Watch Committees constituted by the local District Chief and or his representative, a women's delegate, a Scout and four other young people from the district. The Scouts are the focal points of the Watch Committees that help to coordinate the awareness activities. Each volunteer signs a volunteering engagement charter, which contains measures they must take to protect themselves during their involvement to avoid exposing themselves to the disease.
Scouts and other youth volunteers go to the neighbourhoods to inform people about the virus, its symptoms and the protective measures to adopt. They do this after undergoing training to develop the capacity to respond to most of the questions from the population. In cases where they're unable to effectively respond to the questions, they refer them to local doctors or other more qualified medical personnel. They enlighten the community on defining what COVID-19 is, its manifestations, mode of transmission, the means of prevention and what to do in the presence of people with the signs, or when they suspect they may be infected. They also use videos, infographics and audio clips to promote good COVID-19 practices on social media. The volunteers also collect and feedback to the national campaign, data on each household reached to help with monitoring and tracking the progress of the campaign.
Each person sensitized in the door-to-door campaign becomes an agent for the transmission of acquired knowledge. Working with the volunteers, they scrutinize the environment and report "abnormal" situations, such as people with symptoms, observation of preventive measures and rumours in the form of a raw, non-validated alert. The alerts are then relayed by short message system (SMS) to the municipal hygiene services for validation or rejection.
A platform, www.muryarmatassa.org, has been developed by UNICEF Niger to report COVID-19 cases, share good practices and advice collected by volunteers in the field to support the building of community knowledge hub. This community-based disease surveillance allows community members to identify diseases early and inform medical personnel to facilitate rapid response to prevent further spread of the disease within the community.
The ambitious campaign, which also advocates for good hygiene and sanitation, aims to reach 630,000 households, or 4,410,000 people across the country thanks to the assistance of 1,750 volunteers, most of whom are Scouts. The volunteers are divided into pairs with each targeting to reach 800 households. In each region, a steering committee coordinated by the Scouts of Niger oversees the implementation of activities for an initial period of four months, including a post-COVID-19 stage for better sustainability of achievements and lessons learnt.
Apart from the awareness component, the Scouts of Niger are also responsible for supervising the establishment and training of Community Watch Committees, but also the operationalization of neighbourhood teams through the distribution of protective items to combat COVID-19 such as face masks and hand washing equipment, with the support of religious leaders.
This community-based disease surveillance system is central to the principle of participation in detecting changes in the environment and can be a key success factor in minimizing health risks during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, Scouts around the world have been responding to the needs of their communities on an individual and group level from awareness-raising to deliveries of essential items. World Scouting set up a Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund, where you can donate to help Scouts continue supporting their communities in need. All funds will be channelled directly to support National Scout Organizations.