Conflict affected populations in Iraq, particularly IDPs and refugeesin and out of camps and recent returnees, are already faced with public health risks associated with diseases outbreaks. The situation of these IDPs and refugees is currently exacerbated by specific vulnerabilities and challenges related to COVID-19, putting more strain on the IDPs/returnees/refugees and services provided to support them. Given the diverse actors involved in COVID-19 response (WASH, Health, CCCM, Protection, etc.), it is essential to have streamlined guidance on health and hygiene messages to be shared with local communities, who is best placed to deliver these messages, and how messages should be delivered. WASH Cluster Iraq has developed this COVID-19 health and hygiene promotion guidance document to facilitate effective health and hygiene promotion on COVID-19 to affected populations.
Who should be trained on health and hygiene promotion?
Actors responding to COVID-19 must ensure that interventions are adequately resourced with appropriately qualified and experienced full time staff members who can ensure that hygiene promotion efforts are carried out in a planned and systematic way. These staff should oversee Outreach Workers and Community Mobilizers at the community level while carrying out hygiene promotion activities.
Outreach Workers or Community Mobilizers are usually identified from within the community where health and hygiene promotion will take place. Particularly in camp settings, local community members are less likely to be traveling out of the camp, and therefore have a lower likelihood of carrying COVID-19 and becoming a vector of infection. The greater risk is that people coming in from outside of the camp, including camp management, aid workers, service providers, traders, etc., based outside of the camp could contract the virus and pass on to camp populations. Partners should limit the volume and frequency of movement in and out of the camp in order to promote effective social isolation and reduce the potential for infection. Given the concerns of a significant second wave of COVID-19 cases in Iraq, partners can consider financial incentives as mobilisers will be expected to work longer and more consistent hours. However, ideally community members volunteer their time for the good of their immediate community.
It is not necessary to have a WASH, medical or health background to conduct COVID-19 health and hygiene promotion – even those with a medical background will still have to learn new skills in order to know how to use a community-based approach.
Social workers or community organizers can make very effective health and hygiene promoters because they have usually been trained how to communicate with individuals and communities and how to motivate them to take action. Organizations should follow the sphere standards for hygiene promotion and have one hygiene promoter per 500 individuals targeted, both in and out of camps. The cluster recognizesthat this may be harder is out of camp and informal settlements, but stresses that partners should attempt to reach this ratio if possible.