A video animation created to dispel the myths about Ebola has directly reached nearly 60,000 individuals in two northern districts of Sierra Leone in three months.
Created during the height of the deadly Ebola outbreak, the video has reached 13,172 households in Koinadugu and Bombali, according to Annisha Vasutavan, the Ebola response coordinator for Catholic Relief Services in Sierra Leone. The team is using the Krio and Temne versions of the animation to reach out in northern Sierra Leone.
“We have had direct contact with 58,409 individuals (and) indirectly reached 91,888 household members. The video has been used 5,544 times by the rapid response teams. The storytelling flipbook has been used 9,171 times by the rapid response teams,” Vasutavan reported.
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Collaboration increases reach
Dan Krause, top executive for United Methodist Communications, said the collaborative work in creating and distributing the video animation increased the reach of the church’s Ebola prevention messages.
“Stories are a powerful way to convey memorable messages that get people's attention. Working in partnership with other faith groups and nonprofits has also exponentially increased our ability to reach those at risk with prevention messages.”
ICT4D, which stands for information, communication and technology for development, has partnered in the two northern districts with Catholic Relief Services in a six-month social mobilization project using the animation on tablets and flipbooks developed from the animation.
“Animation is a very effective means of reaching multiple-language audiences – especially in communities with low literacy levels. Catholic Relief Services has taken this one to another level by integrating it with their training program,” explained Neelley Hicks, director of United Methodist Communication’s ICT4D Church Initiatives.
Ebola has stubbornly hung on in Sierra Leone, although just four cases were reported the first week of August and many restrictions have been lifted. This outbreak has killed more than 11,200 people worldwide, with nearly all deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Previously, the focus was on one-dimensional ways of communication about Ebola, such as posters and radio jingles, Vasutavan told United Methodist News Service. “We wanted something more of a two-way communication that can stimulate dialogue and get people to engage with our social mobilization,” she said.
Vasutavan worked with Hicks and Chocolate Moose Media founder Firdaus Kharas — the producer of the animation video — on how her social mobilization team could use the video in its activities and put together still shots from the videos to make a storytelling book.
When the team is not able to show the video, they use the flipbook. “We have a discussion guide that has been developed to specifically accompany this story and the film,” she said.
Training community leaders
Vasutavan deploys four mobile teams that go to various locations in the two districts.
Simultaneously, 120 influential community leaders — religious leaders, societal heads, women’s group leaders, youth group leaders — have been trained to use the storytelling flipbook. These leaders have provided the information to more than 2,400 peers, who are holding small community-dialogue sessions to discuss critical issues.
“These mobile teams enter the communities moving from house-to-house,” Vasutavan explained. “We usually enter a community with two pairs. One pair will deal with households, moving from house-to-house in the entire community, while the other pair will meet with the community group structures that exist like youth groups, women’s groups, the religious leaders, the chiefs.”
The teams go into schools as well, where they teach about discrimination and stigmatization, which she called a huge issue in Koinadugu, where communities are afraid to send their children back to school.
“So we do address a host of issues; not just about prevention, but reintegration and about positive recovery,” she said.
The Catholic Relief Services social mobilization efforts in Koinadugu and Bombali are focused on the comprehensive knowledge level of communities, since the communities there now have zero Ebola cases.
“Behavior change takes some time…. we hope that through the materials we are using, through the interactions we are having, it will spark a longer term change in communities,” she said.
“We work in very remote areas – hard to reach areas where accessibility is an issue,” she said, adding that many of the communities have gotten no attention from non-governmental agencies that are fighting Ebola.
Vasutavan said her team practices long-term data collection that enables them to compare the knowledge levels between the first time they were in the communities and several months later.
“We can tell you that 69 percent of the households we have reached in the last few months now practice the five key preventive measures. We hope to increase this to 80 percent by the time we come to the end of this project in September,” she said.
Jusu is director of communications for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone. News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]