Many communities in Northern Kenya are susceptible to environmental shocks and calamities, such as drought. Now, these communities face the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Turkana County, cases of infections have led to the closure of markets and low livestock trade. To contain the spread of the virus and mitigate its economic impact, following the government’s COVID-19 safety guidelines is critical.

That’s why the Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems Activity, together with the Turkana County government, offered activities to sensitize the community to COVID-19 safety measures in line with the national government’s priority to contain the spread of the virus. Through this intervention, the Activity, which is funded by USAID and implemented by ACDI/VOCA and its partners supported the county’s public health department in providing sensitization training, especially in livestock markets.

Community champions of change

In September 2021, the Activity contracted Chams Media Limited, a communications consultancy firm to train over 100 individuals as “community champions of change.” The champions shared COVID-19 safety messaging with communities, including those in the county’s remote areas of Lodwar, Lokichar, Kakuma, and Kalokol.

Chams Media holds a session with the “community champions of change” to train them in how to share COVID-19 safety messaging.

The Activity selected community health volunteers, community disease reporters, and members of livestock marketing associations to become champions, along with local artists, media experts, women, and youth. The Activity also drew champions from its Rural Enterprise Access Program groups and Girls Improving Resilience through livelihood groups.

Together with Chams Media, the Activity also amplified these messages across local radio and national television channels in the local languages of Ng’aturkana and Kiswahili. Local stations included Echami Radio FM, Ejok FM, Akicha FM, Attanayeche FM, Ato Sifa FM, and KTN News.

From October 5-12, the Activity, Chams Media, and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation also held in-person sessions. With the support of local leaders, the sessions on COVID-19 sensitization took place in Kalokol, Lodwar, Lokichar, and Kakuma. The sessions demystified myths and misconceptions surrounding the SARS-CoV-2  virus, preventive measures, and vaccination. To reinforce the messaging, the Activity provided community members with facemasks, handwashing stations, detergents, and t-shirts. These interventions will build community resilience during the pandemic and allow safe interactions in livestock markets and slaughterhouses so that people can continue to work.

Community vaccination and outreach

As a result of these sensitization exercises, Turkana County’s Department of Medical Services extended its offering of voluntary vaccination. The team reached more than 1,000 people with information on COVID-19 safety guidelines and vaccinated 765 people.  Before this, the county had vaccinated approximately 3,000 people within a period of about 7 months.

“Just like many pastoralists, I had a negative perception of this vaccine and had not thought of being vaccinated. But now I am happy to have received my jab. I encourage fellow pastoralists to get the jab too.”

— Market trader.

Watch news coverage of these efforts captured by KTN News Kenya.

Learn more about the Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems Activity.

Learn more about our work in Kenya.