Why Africa could be more ready for Coronavirus than Developed Nations
The recent announcement by the WHO that COVID-19 is now pandemic has gripped so much of the world in fear, obsession and buying frenzies. Panic and fear has spread faster than the disease itself and it appears that the solution to our problems really requires us all to take a lesson from the classroom and clinic and go back to basics.
Triple Eight is a socially conscious marketing agency driving business with purpose. Working in Africa, where outbreaks and diseases are a regular occurrence, has lead us to become a leading healthcare marketing and behaviour change agency, with a strong focus on helping people deal with epidemics and providing support to governments during healthcare crises.
In 2012, we began working with a leading global soap brand in the development of a school hygiene and handwashing programme and the largest clinic programme in Southern Africa, the New Mum Programme.
Every year across Southern Africa, we train and deploy hundreds of healthworkers and brand ambassadors to visit thousands of schools and clinics to educate millions of children and their mothers about the importance of good hygiene and handwashing.
Our company has developed partnerships with the Ministry of Health in South Africa, Nambia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, our messaging is localised and our efforts co-ordinated with those of government.
Through this work we train young people and women as healthworkers, giving them what is often their first job and an opportunity to earn a living whilst making a measurable difference in their communities.
In class, our lessons are simple:
- Handwashing with soap and clean water is the single most cost effective public health intervention – and one that is actually affordable in most communities
- Good hand hygiene protects children from deadly illnesses like diarrhoea, which kills more under-fives than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined
- The 6 / 10 steps for handwashing (depending on which country you are in) is the best way to ensure your hands are really clear of germs and remember to wash for at least 20 seconds
- There are key occasions for washing hands including after going to the toilet, before touching food, before eating breakfast, lunch and dinner and during bathtime
- Germs make us ill more quickly when we touch our faces or come in close contact with people who have been infected
To help children remember to wash hands correctly and for a full 20 seconds we created a handwashing song…Sung to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat:
Wash, wash, wash your hands; wash them everywhere; fingers, thumbs, finger, thumbs; germs will disappear. Rub, rub, rub those hands; rub those nails as well; fingers, nails, fingers, nails; repeat the show and tell.
Having realised that becoming a mother is a point of inflection and a time when she is most likely to change her behaviour, our new mum programme also educates mothers in clinics and hospitals, immediately after giving birth, about how to help prevent her child and family from getting sick through her own daily practice of hygiene.
Over the past 8 years, through Triple Eight programmes alone, we have reached more than 2 million children and over 10 million mothers in Southern Africa. Reports from the SA Department of Health clinics in SA show that our interventions have resulted in a drastic reduction in diarrhoea related illnesses. In addition, there is a significant increase in knowledge and attitude of mums on the subject of hygiene after mums are exposed to the programme. This type of education has been taking place in Africa over many years, to help communities combat cholera, listeriosis, flu and diarrhoea outbreaks. The value of these investments by brands with purpose will be paying off well as we enter a period during which Coronavirus has grown into a pandemic that is fast approaching Africa.
Whilst these may be basic lessons we give to mums and children, it seems that now more than ever, its time for the world to go back to basics and remember that at a time like this, less is more (cut travelling, public gatherings, spreading myths and misconceptions on social media or panic), and its time to go back to some basic lessons. Wash your hands and care for each other if you really want to make a difference.
Triple Eight are currently working in partnership with Ministries of Health in SA and Zambia to mobilise resources to help support communities by setting up more handwashing stations through public places and providing education and access to information. For more information to contribute to our efforts in getting handwashing stations into public sites, please visit www.tripleeight.co.za and for information about Coronavirus, use the Ministry of Health WhatsApp line +27 60 012 3456.