With the goal of reducing conflicts and mitigating their impact, the EUTF-funded RASMI project works to enhance social capital and cohesion, strengthen peace structures, and ensure conflict sensitivity in efforts by private sector players. RASMI’s geographical reach extends from Mandera East, Rhamu and Banisa in Mandera County, Kenya, to Belet-Hawa, Dollow and Luuq districts of Gedo region in Somalia, and to Mubarak, Barey and Dollo Ado districts of Ethiopia, collectively referred to as the Mandera triangle. These regions also represent the three conflict systems within which peacebuilding and conflict management activities are implemented, further contributing to sustainability of project objectives.
RASMI adopts a participatory approach in enlisting local influencers, dubbed “boundary partners” (BPs), to drive change within target communities and ensure sustainability long after the project has ended. These BPs – currently comprising of 175 women, youth, religious and traditional leaders, as well as peace committees and local government representatives – have built far-reaching networks capable of sharing early warning information on conflict and quickly mobilising de-escalation response to emerging conflict situations. It is these BPs, and their extensive networks, that have been invaluable to all three governments’ rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Mandera Triangle.
On the importance of community targeted awareness, Mohamed Ibrahim, an elder from Mandera, commented, “A major part of peaceful cohesion among our diverse communities is making sure our people acquire the right information to effectively mitigate shocks such as from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Zakaria Abdinur, a youth leader from Mandera, echoes Ibrahim’s sentiments, “Our long-running engagement with RASMI as key change agents of the community prepared us to easily incorporate health messaging, thus contributing to both community health and upholding of peaceful coexistence.”
When COVID-19 struck the region in March 2020, existing BPs quickly transitioned from peace champions to COVID-19 champions, simultaneously spearheading social cohesion discussions, and sensitizing their respective communities on preventive practices considering the global pandemic. RASMI engaged 83 boundary partners in a variety of awareness creation activities, making sure to collaborate with public health officers from local government-established COVID-19 taskforces to advance cohesive and accurate messaging.
Both print and broadcast media were used in the awareness campaign, with channels such as radio, roadshows, billboards, and banners proving particularly effective in sharing COVID-19 messages. An estimated 165,000 listeners across the Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia cross-border areas were reached through radio talk shows aired weekly for four weeks and listeners were given the opportunity to call in and ask questions. This was a unique opportunity for the panellists to dispel any myths about the disease – such as the notion that the virus cannot survive or spread in hot areas, or that COVID-19 is a variation of the common cold – and to offer realistic prevention measures to communities at large.
"In our experience, messages delivered verbally or through voice recordings have a greater impact on audiences than written ones. RASMI is also cognizant of varied literacy levels, therefore use of local languages in awareness interventions is paramount. Finally, radio and roadshows respond to the urgency of awareness creation and message sharing, meaning we reach more people in a short amount of time.” says Abdimunim Dahir, RASMI Project Manager.
The Star FM, broadcasting in Somali language, and Dawa FM, broadcasting in the Borana/Garre dialect, were strategically selected to reach the different audiences in Gedo region of Somalia, Mandera in Kenya, and Dollo Ado, Mubarak, and Suftu Woredas of Ethiopia to accommodate the different language preferences. In addition to talk shows, the two radio stations also aired public service announcements (PSAs) three times a day during primetime to increase COVID-19 information awareness.
On roadshows, over 15,000 residents across all three countries were reached by BPs and public health officials travelling in vehicles mounted with public address systems and draped with banners containing COVID-19 and peace messages. At each of the 129 stopovers made – including at health centres, markets, and shopping centres – the team shared information on the disease, emphasising government control measures in place to mitigate the pandemic, notably curfews. Police officers were included in several caravan sessions to assuage fears of personal harm or property destruction in implementation of curfew directives. The caravans also provided opportunity for residents to request personal protective equipment (PPEs) such as masks from their administrators.
Behind the scenes, a section of BPs worked tirelessly in content creation and messaging to ensure accurate language translation for targeted dissemination. Recorded voice messages shared on Facebook and WhatsApp were especially effective. Abdirahman Mudow, an elder from Mandera and recipient of a recorded voice message, remarked, “The messages were educative and provided correct details about the virus. I feel this was helpful, and more messages in local dialects are needed to continually sensitize the community with these important health messages.”
Funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the Regional Approaches for Sustainable Conflict Management and Integration (RASMI) project adopts a conflict systems-based approach to promote peace-building, conflict management, and conflict resolution capacity at the community and cross-border levels. It is part of the EU’s program for Collaboration in the Cross-Border areas of the Horn of Africa, providing over 60 million euros of investment to prevent and mitigate the impact of local conflict and to promote economic development and greater resilience in four different cross-border regions.
- Publication date
- 6 August 2020
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