WHO supported Risk Communication Interventions contributes to Borno decline in Measles Cases
By Muhammad Maitela, Maiduguri
“I was distraught seeing my four years old son, Hassan, emaciating rapidly due to measles. I could barely eat or converse with my neighbors’ in camp because of his deteriorating health. Weeks ago, he was fine and playing with other children, but here he was helpless, lost weight and could barely sit by himself because he has not been eating well.” Says Amina Abubakar, Hassan’s mother.
Amina resides in the internally displaced Persons camp (IDP) at Gubio, Borno State. She had no knowledge of how to manage Hassan’s ailment until she received health intervention from some World Health Organization (WHO) trained field health volunteers who had gone to the camp on health sensitization campaign.
With improvement in Hassan’s health, Amina was grateful with the information she received from the community health champions.
“I appreciate the education. I am glad my son is back on his feet and I have enough knowledge to take care of my family.” She said.
Amidst the surge in the third wave of the covid-19 pandemic, there has been a concurrent increase in the number of reported infectious disease such as measles, cholera among others in the country. In Borno state, there was a rise in the number of infections before the focused intervention of the volunteering team in May 2021. As of week, 22, Borno state recorded 7,062 suspected cases of measles with 88 deaths.
Measles is a highly contagious childhood infection associated with high fever, runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes, and rash on the body. The disease can be serious and even fatal for small children. It is, however, a vaccine preventable disease.
The 13 years humanitarian crisis in Borno state has led to the displacement of millions of people and made them at risk of impoverish and susceptible to infectious diseases. To curb the spread of infectious diseases such as measles and the COVID-19, the Borno State Ministry of Health in collaboration with the WHO trained health volunteers referred to as WHO community champions provided House to House risk communication messages in the IDP camps and to the vulnerable persons in the affected LGAs and communities to reduce the number of disease outbreaks.
The volunteers were tasked to scale up house-to-house interpersonal risk communication messages across the hotspot locations as guided by the surveillance Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS) data. The community health champions provided the health risk messages through pictorial flip charts, flyers, and other communication materials under strict COVID-19 preventive measures and protocols.
The contribution of the house-to-house risk communication intervention by the community health champions, from May to July 2021; unearth a remarkable massive decline in the number of suspected measles cases from 63% at week 22 to almost 39% in week 30.
Falmata, a community health champion who have been providing real-time interpersonal risk communication messages to communities since 2019 said she loved the job she was doing because it gave her the opportunity to make a positive difference in her community.
“I know my people lack the basic information on how to protect themselves from diseases or make informed decisions to avert disease outbreaks, but I am privileged to be part of these great teams that are making a difference” Falmata said
Meanwhile, the Director of Public Health, Borno State Ministry of Health, Dr. Lawi Mshelia, said: “Risk communication sensitization is very important component in infectious outbreak response management interventions because it advises on regular hand wash and washing of hands with soap and water to can help to reduce infectious diseases that are commonly transmissible.”
“It is imperative to acknowledge the technical role and collaboration of WHO, as the lead agency in health, which has been very effective since the humanitarian crisis. The house-to-house interpersonal risk communication intervention has really impacted on the lives of our people, most especially, the IDPs and this intervention has contributed to the decline of a lot of disease outbreaks like the suspected measles cases in the state.”