Communities Work Together to Stop Spread of COVID in Kasai, DR Congo
When the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC, confirmed its first cases of COVID-19 in early March 2020, the Development Food Security Activity project Budikadidi, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau of Humanitarian Affairs, acted quickly to revise its activity planning and operations to limit staff movements.
Recognizing the challenges presented by the pandemic, Budikadidi, which translates to “self-sufficiency” in the Tshiluba language, pivoted many existing activities to address potential shocks from the coronavirus.
A key goal was to enhance the overall resilience of its 474 target villages and communities in Kasai Oriental, a province in central DRC. Village leaders, water management committees, mother-led nutrition and hygiene groups, literacy promotion groups and many others quickly incorporated COVID‑19 prevention measures in their activities and warned communities about the virus.
In addition, Budikadidi leveraged its existing relationships with community radio stations to broadcast timely and accurate information based on World Health Organization and Ministry of Health messaging to counteract myths and misinformation that were circulating. Radio shows included an interactive discussion component allowing listeners to call in with questions and share stories on their adaptations to the pandemic. Youth clubs, organized by the project and already meeting weekly to listen to the radio, took on a vital role in organizing small group discussions in open areas to discuss COVID-related messages while ensuring social distancing.
Alex Kahia, the Budikadidi health and nutrition coordinator for CRS partner Caritas Mbujimayi, played a pivotal role during the critical weeks and months when the program had to undergo multiple and rapid adaptations while simultaneously contributing to and aligning with the DRC government’s COVID-19 response.
Alex represented Budikadidi at the provincial COVID-19 task force. He also translated the radio show scripts into Tshiluba to ensure that they would reach rural villagers.
Papa Alex, as he is known in Budikadidi, says, “it was necessary to translate the document into Tshiluba to ensure our messages are easily understood in the villages. Not everyone understands French, and it was crucial to ensure villagers receive clear messages.”
Dorkas Masmasango collects water in the village of Tshimanga Tshisuaka village, Kasansa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Forty-one water sources have been reinforced within the Budikadidi project in Kasai Province.
Photo by Samuel Phelps/CRS
During this time, Budikadidi staff were working from home, and frequent power failures and unreliable internet made Alex’s work very challenging. At times, he stayed up late working with a flashlight and he drove throughout the city of Mbujimayi looking for a place to recharge his computer and access the internet in order to send his work.
After a recent field visit, Alex says, “it is so great to see rural communities well informed about coronavirus. They believe the pandemic exists. They are making an effort to protect themselves and protect others. They are respecting social distancing when they have their meetings.”
Thanks to Papa Alex’s hard work and dedication, accurate and timely COVID-19 information reached over 90,000 Budikadidi households. This information allowed people to receive clear guidance that helped them remain calm and protect themselves from COVID-19. To date, there have been no cases of COVID-19 in the Kasai Oriental province.