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Battling Covid-19 in Ethiopia by Educating the Public

Covid-19, Coronavirus, Sars-cov-2, 2020 (2012 if you are using Ethiopian calendar) — these are just some of the names of what has been one of the most challenging pandemics countries have had to deal with in recent memory. Higher-income, as well as lower-income countries, have been on equal receiving ends of it’s unforgiving and relentless targeting of the population. However, the resources to deal with its impacts — from educating the population on the realities of the pandemic and how to avoid it, to the medical treatment available, and all the way to the ability to weather the socioeconomic impacts — is anything but equal. For countries like Ethiopia, the best hope to make it through the pandemic has been by relying on one of the foundations of its ancient culture — communities supporting each other. Battling Covid-19 in Ethiopia is no easy task. However, in collaboration with renowned healthcare professionals and local organizations, Jegna launched a campaign to raise public awareness.

Jegna’s core mission as an organization has been to connect the Ethiopian diaspora who live all over the world with their homeland, Ethiopia, so there could be a free flow of knowledge, and broadening of culture, and ultimately a nurturing of inclusive growth. This growth is for the Diaspora, for the communities, and for the country. There was no better time to direct the effort Jegna had put into building a strong base of this mission than by rolling its sleeves up and diving into the world effort to excise this ruthless pandemic.

After deciding to launch a project to help with the Covid spread in Ethiopia, the first challenge was figuring out how to help. The team spent the first week looking for the best way to help by taking into account the skillset, network, and resources available to Jegna. After rigorous research and multiple conversations with our parent organization, People to People (P2P), the team landed on public education as the best area where we could support. It was clear that educating the residents of Addis Ababa about what the pandemic was, how it transmits, it’s symptoms, and the basics of social distancing were severely lacking. Furthermore, Jegna believed with approximately 6 million people having access to social media that we could reach a solid percentage of the urban population with an education campaign focused on social media.

The next challenge was credibility. Why should anyone listen to an organization that is not health-related? In fact, why should the Jegna team even think that the information we are sharing is accurate, relevant, or current? We are as susceptible to misinformation and bias as anyone. So to earn this credibility, we worked with P2P to create partnerships with pre-existing foundations that have expertise in education (Ministry of Science and Higher Education (MOSHE)), in healthcare (Ministry of Health of Ethiopia (MOHE) and Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI)), and in fact based news broadcasting (Arts TV). Working with our partners, we landed on a format that relies on volunteer doctors willing to engage with the public via social media to be a direct source of accurate and current information. Our volunteer doctors, all listed at the bottom of this post, became the heart of the covid education campaign and Jegna the facilitator of their expertise.

Jegna campaign doctors የኮቪድ ዘመቻ
Healthcare experts who assisted in educating the public via social media

Through the weeks this project was live, our doctors were able to reach over 700,000 individuals who were engaged with what our doctors were sharing around symptoms, transmission, and fake news about the pandemic. Jegna supplemented this effort by running educational ads and a communications toolkit that the Jegna team built and aired through Facebook and local Ethiopian TV stations. We also co-hosted conferences with P2P that had over 300 Ethiopian doctors across the globe participating to learn from each other and keep current with the ever-evolving conditions of the pandemic. 

Jegna was able to reach a portion of the population in a way we were hoping had a positive impact on the spread of the disease in Ethiopia. While there is no empirical way for us to measure the impact we had on the spread of the disease, we at least know that over two million people were reached by our education campaign. And Jegna will continue to support the community as best as we can so we can all come out of this stronger, having weathered one of the worst pandemics this century.

We want to give a special thank you to the following organizations for their partnerships: Gerar — The Creative Hub, Ureeka Lab, Ministry of Health of Ethiopia (MOHE), Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI), Ministry of Science and Higher Education (MOSHE), Arts TV, Ethiopian Diaspora Advisory Council on Covid-19, and ANADACH Health Group. We also acknowledge the volunteer healthcare professionals who have dedicated their time to addressing various public questions.

Author avatar
Leul Bezane
Leul ensures that Jegna initiatives have a coordinated goal and approach for short-, mid-, and long-term strategic missions across the organization.

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