The impact of COVID-19 on health, economic development and community life remains unprecedented in South Africa as well as the Nelson Mandela Bay City region (NMB) in the Eastern Cape province.
To adequately address the impacts on economic and social life from the ongoing pandemic and its consequences in the City region, a collaborative response by private, public and community stakeholders was needed. Therefore, NatuReS South Africa partnered with the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber (NMBBC) under the umbrella of the Nelson Mandela Bay Water & Economic Resilience Partnership to mitigate the tremendous setback stemming from the pandemic.
In November 2020, in a first phase of immediate actions funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (BMZ) COVID-19-relief-funds, the Business Chamber launched various awareness campaigns promoting behavioural change at community level. Personal protective equipment (PPE) and water were distributed to vulnerable communities. Additionally, community engagement workshops, as well as media-, radio- and poster campaigns in local languages were conducted. Moreover, an extensive school PPE and COVID-19 awareness campaign was developed to ensure a safe re-opening of schools, one of the priorities given the major impact closed schools have on children’s lives and their future opportunities.
As the pandemic continued, a second phase of actions was needed. Through another allocation of funds, the NMBBC launched an awareness campaign on COVID-19 behavioural change and vaccine awareness, linked to the safeguarding of jobs in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Region. From February until April 2022, the QINA Campaign (Qina meaning ‘be strong’ in isiXhosa – the most spoken language in NMB) informed the residents of NMB about good water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) principles, linked to COVID-19 behavioural change and vaccine awareness. The campaign included radio adverts on Umhlobo Wenene FM, the most popular radio station in the Eastern Cape with a listenership of about 2.7 million people, to encourage people to protect their communities by washing their hands, wearing masks and getting vaccinated.
Moreover, six buses, which drove around the NMB area for three months, spread these important messages through bus back advertising in English, Afrikaans, and isiXhosa. A social media campaign on Facebook reached more than 54,000 people through posts that were boosted to target areas in NMB. Finally, roadshows in 15 schools with more than 11,300 students in Algoa Park, Greenbushes, KwaZakhele, Motherwell, New Brighton, Theescombe, and Zwidewere were organised, informing students and teachers on the importance of WASH principles, highlighting hand washing, wearing of masks and social distancing behaviour. For this purpose, 12,000 booklets containing both a children and an adult section were handed out to the pupils to inform them and their parents on good WASH behaviour and vaccine awareness. In addition, 16,500 facemasks, 650 five-litre bottles of sanitizer, and 90 infrared thermometers were distributed to the schools to assist them in fighting COVID-19.
All these measures aim at improving communities’ and businesses’ resilience against the current pandemic, as well as against future outbreaks and other disasters. Particularly the awareness for the importance of adequate WASH principles and services is crucial to keep communities safe in the long-term.