SEATTLE, Washington — With the emergence of COVID-19, Western countries have been able to adopt social distancing practices in their everyday lives fairly easily. However, in countries where communal living is prevalent, the COVID-19 pandemic creates a unique problem. One instance of this is Chad, where communal living is common, especially in Chad’s capital city of N’Djamena. Since communal living is not as familiar in larger countries such as the U.S. or England, modern medicine practices generally do not accommodate these arrangements. Along with communal living, close to three-quarters of the population in Chad reside in rural areas, with either limited or no access to radio, television or other methods of broadcast media. Health professionals have designed some unique methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Chad.
Since it is difficult for communities in Chad to be well-informed of safety guidelines, health professionals in the country have determined that the best way to deliver information is through word of mouth. The U.N. has been working with authorities in Chad to send 1,040 community educators to eight of Chad’s provinces, to promote social distancing and handwashing practices, while dispelling false information about the virus. These health educators are often members of the community, making interactions much more personable since the educators speak the languages of the locals and have an understanding of the community’s cultural practices. In these encounters, members of the community can also ask the health educator any questions they may have, providing room for a dialogue on how to adapt to these measures within their unique situation. Since this campaign has begun, Chad’s Ministry of Health reported that health professionals have educated 103,000 people.
Safety Measure Issues
Even though many people in Chad have learned many important ways to maintain their safety, there are still a few issues within their communities. One major issue is adopting social distancing practices in communal living. People who live in this environment are so used to sharing the same space as well as the same belongings with others, that many cannot imagine another way of life. This may be the main challenge that health educators have faced in their campaign. Nevertheless, health educators do their best to explain the urgency of adapting.
Another challenge that educators face is myths surrounding the virus. For example, one common belief among communities is that the virus cannot survive in the heat of Chad. Luckily, educators are able to dispel these rumors using evidence from medical centers, given that the first recorded case of the virus was in mid-March. Educators have also placed more than 200,000 COVID-19 awareness posters in public buildings, markets, schools and health centers in 16 provinces. These posters help to spread correct information about necessary safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Chad.
Foreign Aid in Chad
Education about COVID-19 in Chad is extremely effective, but it is also important that Chad receives the resources it needs to effectively fight the pandemic. The U.N. is working to prevent the spread of the virus among displaced populations in the country. Chad contains the largest refugee population in the Sahel, including about half a million people that have fled violence in the neighboring countries of Sudan, Central African Republic and Nigeria. Along with this, there are more than 200,000 internally displaced people surrounding Lake Chad. Due to this situation, the United Nation’s World Food Programme is providing emergency food assistance for these vulnerable communities who suffer from a lack of resources, especially during COVID-19.
UNICEF is also supplying Chad with health supplies in order to aid the country’s battle against the virus. The organization’s shipments to Chad include personal protective equipment, therapeutic milk for children with severe acute malnutrition, essential medicine and vaccines. UNICEF’s aid mainly focuses on delivering health supplies and improving water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in communities. However, UNICEF is also providing psychosocial support to families affected by the virus and engaging with communities by conducting communication activities aimed at promoting practices that can stem the spread of the virus.
Overall, Chad serves as an example of how to address a pandemic in a country with unique living situations. This situation reveals the importance of adapting safety measures to each community’s needs, while also providing interactive assistance where community members can voice their concerns and receive personal support.
– Natascha Holenstein