In Chad, a landlocked country in Central Africa, more than 70 per cent of the population is rural and with limited access to digital information channels. Many of these communities are 'disconnected' from radio and cellphone coverage, leaving them out of critical COVID-19 sensitization messages.
To overcome this challenge and strengthen health security at local levels, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Chad recently partnered with local traditional town troubadours to ensure that the most rural communities across the country are informed on COVID-19 transmission and preventive measures.
Over 80 troubadours were identified through IOM networks in eight regions, where IOM already has a presence. They were trained and equipped by IOM with key messages to share with communities in local languages. Town troubadours traditionally move with donkeys, horses or camels from community to community sharing information related to community news.
"In various rural communities in Chad, town troubadours are seen as information custodians. As such, they can play an important role in disseminating key information in hard-to-reach areas," said Anne Kathrin Schaefer, IOM Chad Chief of Mission.
"Town criers and troubadours are part of the life of this community," explained one town crier from Baga-Sola, a town on the shore of Lake Chad in Western Chad. "Nothing happens here without me being informed and me informing others. Many women do not leave their houses during the day but when they hear me coming, they rush out to listen to me," he added.
The man marches through Baga-Sola, a long caftan robe billowing in the dusty wind. Swinging matching megaphones he calls out to the dun-colored structures, almost like in Roman times, with the Chadian equivalent of "Lend me your ears".
"Coronavirus is a dangerous disease. We heard that the pandemic affected the world but us. Today, the disease is here. We have to have good hygiene habits and wash our hands, not greet each other, and if you go to the toilet, wash your hands with soap," he chants in the Kanembou dialect."If you're home, make sure to show the good habits to your kids. Before and after eating, wash your hands with soap."
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, 33 cases have been confirmed in Chad with no fatalities. In addition to risk communication and community engagement, IOM supports Chad's national response to the disease through the management and equipment of Points of entry (POE), protection and assistance to migrants in transit, and the distribution of NFI kits which include hygiene items such as water and soap internally displaced persons in the conflict-stricken Lake Region.