There is something about music. Research has proved that music can attract masses and has a great influence on communities and perceptions of life and health issues especially now as the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Zimbabwe, specialized mobile trucks are using music to draw the attention of, and at the same time raise awareness and educate communities on COVID-19 preventative measures, Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and other important messages during this crisis such as nutrition, and education information.
UNICEF have partners with GOAL Zimbabwe together with Promobile Africa, who provide specially equipped trucks, and trained teams to reach out to communities for the COVID-19 awareness campaign.
When a specialized mobile truck playing loud music meandered its way into Nketa 8, Bulawayo, residents immediately came out of their houses intrigued as to what was disturbing their regular Wednesday morning.
The town water had recently come back after two weeks and many families were catching up on laundry and other chores. As women and young girls wearing face masks stood by their gates arms akimbo, their soapy hands and sweeping brooms testified the work they had been doing. Yet, as the truck rolled in they left the chores, stood and listened to messages coming from the loud speakers and teams accompanying the trucks.
"COVID-19 is still with us. Let us practice all the recommended prevention measures like washing hands with soap and clean running water for 20 seconds. If you do not have tap water, try to get some from your nearest borehole. Mama, ensure you sanitise your hands and maintain social distance. Always wear your clean facemask covering your nose and mouth," a voice from the loudspeaker said.
Specially trained teams carry the COVID-19 message
The voice is that of Vusa Ndlovu, one of the GOAL Zimbabwe team members who have been empowered with the titles of brand ambassadors. They are doing the visits in Bulawayo's high density suburbs.
His team consists a driver Tich Muzambindo, two other ambassadors Lynette Ncube and Nkululeko Sibanda who walk door to door educating residents.
Vusa says since April this year, they have been going around the communities to raise awareness and reinforce the message on COVID-19 and SGBV. This, he adds, is critical at a time when many people are becoming complacent.
Going around communities, we have noticed that some people think that the reopening of businesses and schools means that there is no more risk of COVID-19 infection. There is also a lot of misinformation," says Vusa.
"During our door to door campaigns, we raise awareness on wearing of face masks, washing hands and social distancing. We emphasise on handwashing and give them soap. Communities are also educated on the symptoms of COVID-19. We give them the toll free number 2019 to call when a person suspects they have the disease."
As of October 16, Zimbabwe had a total of 8,036 Covid-19 cases, 6,632 recoveries and 230 deaths.
To ensure preventative messages stay alive and reach as many people as possible, the specialised mobile trucks and dedicated teams have been moving around Bulawayo and the surrounds between 8am and 5pm daily. This is one of seven trucks being used in this campaign across Harare, Bulawayo and other Provinces.
Communities embraces COVID-19 information
As Vusa's team engages the community, more people stand by their home entrances to see what is happening.
GOAL Ambassador Lynette engages Nketa 8 resident Letin Lanos (48), who is a mother of two.
She asks Letin if she knows about COVID-19, its symptoms, prevention measures, and the toll free number to call for more information. Letin reveals she only knows that COVID-19 kills and asks for clarification on several issues, which Lynette shares.
Lynette also educates Letin about SGBV and what measures to take if there are any incidents.
As the four-minute discussion ends, Lynette gives her a bar of soap and advice on the importance of handwashing for 20 seconds.
On the other side of the street, Nkululeko the other GOAL ambassador speaks to resident Domuluhle Ndebele.
Domulehle wants more information on SGBV, where to report cases, and how soon to do so if abuse has occurred. Nkululeko shares the toll free numbers, which Domulehle writes on a small piece of paper.
In Phumula North, also in Bulawayo, another team moves door to door educating residents.
Here, small kids and older women dance to the music from the mobile truck as they also listen to the important information being disseminated.
GOAL Zimbabwe ambassador, Nokuthula Masunda, speaks to Esnath Dube (65) grandmother of four. Her youngest grandchild is two (2) years old. She has not taken him to the clinic since the lockdown began.
Nokuthula asks her several questions on COVID-19 and SGBV, and also whether she is aware of mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) tapes and nutrition screening.
MUAC tapes are predominately used to measure the upper arm circumference of children, but also that of pregnant women, helping identify malnutrition.
Esnath says she has the MUAC tape somewhere in her home, but has never used it because of lack of proper knowledge.
"Mama when you put the MUAC around your grandchild's arm the yellow colour indicates that the child is at risk for acute malnutrition and should be counselled and followed-up for monitoring or treatment. If the MUAC measurement is over 135mm (13.5cm) and green in colour, it means that your grandson is well nourished," Nokuthula explains.
Esnath promises that she will look for the MUAC and immediately measure her grandson.
Partners working together to help prevent COVID-19
Thanks to the support from partners, GOAL Zimbabwe is taking public health and hygiene awareness campaign to the most vulnerable people using the specialised mobile trucks.
With support from UNICEF, through financial support from the Health Development Fund (UK Aid, EU, SIDA-Sweden, Irish Aid and GAVI), the Hygiene and Behaviour Coalition (Uk Aid and Uilever), USAID, the Government of Germany, and in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the specialised mobile trucks have proved to be an effective way of reaching communities safely, particularly during the lockdown, when other community engagement activities are have been very limited or not possible.