Community engagement has been considered a fundamental component of past virus outbreaks, such as Ebola. However, there is concern over the lack of involvement of communities and ‘bottom-up’ approaches used within COVID-19 responses thus far.
The Women’s Helping Hand Initiative (TWHHI) has swung into action to provide intervention.
The aim of The Women’s Helping Hand Initiative (TWHHI) is to provide intervention for women when the need arises. As an implementing partner with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), two different projects were carried out in the first quarter of 2021 one of which is Risk Communication and Community Engagement RCCE.
The Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) project is aimed at alleviating the negative effects of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Obviously, the lockdown hindered access to health services due to restriction of movements and insufficient health personnel who were further saddled with Covid-19 response.
Following the ease of the lockdown, the fear of clients and health workers contracting the virus at health facilities still posed a major barrier to the use of Sexual and Reproductive Health and other health facility services.
In order to overcome this barrier, health services were taken closer to the communities. Through community health fairs, over 2000 people in 10 different Local Governments Areas in Lagos state were provided with access to Gender-Based Violence, HIV, tuberculosis and Sexual and Reproductive Health services; as well as a door to door sensitisation, awareness and mobilisation for Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and COVID-19 prevention.
Identifying how community engagement approaches have been used in past epidemics, The Women’s Helping Hand Initiative (TWHHI), in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund and The Lagos State Primary Health Care Board also successfully trained 50 nurses and medical social workers on provision of adequate mental health and psychosocial support for survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence in Lagos State.
Trained social workers also partook in a motorised campaign to health facilities and major markets in 5 different LGAs to sensitise members of the community about the effects of GBV on mental health and provide referral services. About 100,000 people benefited from this campaign. Dignity kits were provided to be distributed to vulnerable women and girls. During the handing over, Mr. Bolaji Akamo, a project officer at TWHHI said this move was in line with the their aim as an organisation which is to continually provide support to women and girls whenever the need arises.