Information

COVID-19 Response Project in Nepal Part 3: Communicating Information

 

From June through September, Sasakawa Health Foundation carried out a project in support of persons affected by leprosy in Nepal hard hit by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Involving the Nepal Leprosy Trust (NLT) and self-help groups (SHGs) formed of persons affected by leprosy and persons with disabilities, the project took place in the Terai region of southern Nepal, where NLT operates a major leprosy services center and also promotes the social and economic rehabilitation of persons affected by leprosy.

With the support of the SHGs, activities were based on the following three pillars: 1) distribution of emergency relief supplies; 2) advocacy with government and local authorities to secure public aid; and 3) information dissemination. By carrying out all three activities concurrently, the aim was to go beyond providing temporary relief and offer comprehensive and sustained support to communities of persons affected by leprosy.

 

Communicating correct and needed information

Communicating information was the third pillar of the project and had two goals. The first involved providing the community with correct information about the novel coronavirus and promoting preventive measures, and the second was to alert civil society to the situation of persons affected by leprosy amid the pandemic and ensure that leprosy is not forgotten. NLT and SHG members planned and implemented the communication strategy together.

One of the main methods of disseminating information was to hold rallies calling for measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Wearing masks and keeping an appropriate distance from one another, participants refrained from shouting slogans and held “silent” rallies in which they displayed messages about washing hands, wearing masks and observing social distancing. Some 10 rallies were held in which around 280 people participated.

The other key method involved the use of radio spots that conveyed the following messages regarding Hansen’s disease and the novel coronavirus:

  1. Refrain from going out unnecessarily.
  2. If you go out, wear a mask and avoid crowds.
  3. Wash your hands frequently with soap.
  4. Fever, cough and breathing difficulties may be symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
  5. If you have symptoms, visit a clinic.
  6. Skin patches may be a symptom of leprosy. Go to a hospital and seek early treatment.
  7. If you run out of your medicine for leprosy, consult a public health nurse.
  8. Leprosy-related disability can be prevented. Practice self-care at home.
  9. Treatment for leprosy is free.
  10. If you need information, call NLT or contact your nearest SHG.

These messages were broadcast 32 times a day in the Nepali and Maithili languages and reached many people as radio, along with television, is the main source of information for Nepalese. Thanks to their effectiveness, 323 calls have been received so far to a consultation hotline that was established as part of the project.

 

The benefits of information dissemination

Through these efforts, SHG members have learned the correct way to wash their hands and wear a mask; instead of being afraid of the novel coronavirus, they have acquired the knowledge to prevent infection. At the same time, thanks to the medium of radio, the community at large has also been educated about preventing infection, and for this the government has been very grateful. It represents a significant step forward that people who have been forced to live apart from society because of illness or disability are now engaging with society through actions to disseminate knowledge and information for the common good. As a result, SHGs’ relationship with the government and the community has been strengthened, and this has been one of the positive outcomes of the project.

 

Check the Nepal Leprosy Trust Facebook page for updates on day-to-day activities.

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Our COVID-19 response