Informing the Most Vulnerable Populations About COVID-19 on Horseback

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© UNICEF Haiti/2020/Edler

Francois Raymond is a committed volunteer of the NGO Caritas, UNICEF partner

Ndiaga Seck

Francois Raymond is a committed volunteer of the NGO Caritas, UNICEF partner. To fight COVID-19 in Haiti, he has chosen to raise awareness among vulnerable populations living in the mountainous areas of Hinche, in the Center department, that cars cannot reach. He travels to the most remote and difficult to access areas on horseback. “I chose an area that is difficult to access because I feel closer to people. To reach some places, you have to use animals, horses or donkeys,” Raymond said, pulling on the horse's reindeer to immobilize it. "We go to hard-to-reach areas because people who live there have a much greater need to be informed. This is my motivation,” added the volunteer.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, UNICEF and its NGO partners have visited remote areas to inform populations. UNICEF builds on 9 years of experience in the fight against cholera, which has paid off. Since February 4, 2019, no cholera case has been reported in Haiti, successfully capping nearly 10 years of struggle. "We have always worked with the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP), and other Haitian authorities to respond to this crisis," said Antonio Marro, Emergency Chief at UNICEF. "On the basis of our cholera response experience, we immediately mobilized our national and international partner NGOs throughout the country," he added.

Thanks to funds from multiple donors, UNICEF supports the MSPP in coordinating prevention and awareness-raising activities. Volunteers like Raymond go from house to house to inform parents, who in turn protect their children. In the awareness sessions led by Raymond, he insists a lot on the barrier gestures to reduce the spread of the virus. “We tell people how to avoid catching the disease: wash your hands all the time, avoid gatherings of more than five people, and wear a mask especially when you go out,” he said.

Iralien Pélatre, a head of household in Layaye in the Hinche area, applies the advice given by community workers to protect children against covid-19. "My youngest son and my grandson live with me, and I have an eye on them all the time," he said. "I ask them not to ‘rub themselves’ against people, not to touch dirty water, not to touch any object in the street," Pélatre clarified, while washing children’s hands with chlorinated water.

At the end of August 2020, in six months of COVID-19 response, UNICEF has trained over 2,800 community health workers, installed more than 9.000 hand-washing points, directly sensitized more than five million people and reached 7.5 million people via radio and television. “We have worked a lot on the borders to prevent contamination from the Dominican Republic, and we are doing what is necessary to reach the most remote communities,” said Marro, while stressing out logistic difficulties. “You have to walk for hours or go on horseback to be able to carry out these activities in several municipalities in the country”.

Today, with over 40 partner NGOs, UNICEF is working in 91 municipalities in Haiti. Prevention efforts are stepped up to protect children, women, families and communities from COVID-19.

UNICEF's response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Haiti is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank, the Government of Canada, the French and Spanish national committees of UNICEF, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the Government of Japan and the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO).