Rwanda

Fighting the spread of COVID-19, one house at a time

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UNICEF and its partners stay committed to raising awareness on COVID-19 prevention measures in high-risk districts.

By Steve Nzaramba

KIREHE, Rwanda – The pathway leading to Daphrose’s house is long, winding, and full of slippery rocks. However, Anaclet is unfazed as he makes his way to the house, determined to complete his mission.

A farmer by trade, Musoni Anaclet also volunteers his time to serve as a community-based volunteer in his village, going house to house to sensitize his neighbors on the importance of practicing the COVID-19 prevention measures: regularly washing hands with soap and clean water, observing physical distancing, and of course, wearing a mask.

Thanks to the generous support of the people and government of Japan, UNICEF recruited and trained volunteers such as Anaclet to sensitize communities across the country.

Armed with a bottle of hand sanitizer, a poster, and his mask securely in place, Anaclet visits homes in Kamombo Village, in the Mahama Sector of Kirehe District.

Anaclet explains that these visits are crucial now more than ever because when authorities announced the reopening of schools and places of worship, and lifted restrictions on public transport, people took it as a sign that the coronavirus pandemic was coming to an end, and life was going back to normal.

Much to the alarm of Anaclet and his fellow volunteers, people began discarding their masks, and once again gathering in large numbers in markets and other public places with total disregard for physical distancing.

“We immediately got to work, increasing the number of visits to homes and intensifying awareness-raising, explaining that the virus is still very much with us, and we cannot afford to reverse the gains we made over the last few months.”

Today, we accompany Anaclet to the household of Nyirahabimana Daphrose, a mother of two children.

Anaclet starts off by giving Daphrose and her daughter Anne-Marie, age 10, a thorough hand-washing demonstration, replete with lots of handwringing, suds of soap and strict adherence to the recommended 40-second duration.

Thereafter, he unfurls his poster and walks them through each image, which depicts the standard COVID-19 prevention measures. Throughout the visit, Daphrose and her daughter ask questions, seeking clarification on some of the rumors they heard about the virus, such as herbal concoctions that some have claimed heal the virus. Anaclet quickly dispels these beliefs, explaining that there is no known cure for the virus to date, but there is light at the end of the tunnel since a number of vaccines have been developed, and vaccination has begun in Rwanda.

All told, the visit lasts about 20 minutes, but the impact will reverberate throughout the community and last much longer, since Daphrose has sworn to also play her part and help sensitize her friends and family, every chance she gets.

“I really want to thank UNICEF and the local government authorities for making the effort to educate us.” Daphrose Muteteri

“These sessions are really helpful for us since not all of us have access to radios or television sets. By sharing this information with us, you equip us with the necessary tips to keep our families safe, for which I am immensely grateful,” Daphrose says.

Soon after, it’s on to the next household, and the next. Anaclet seems unfazed by the distance he must travel on foot, come rain or sunshine. As he meanders through small pathways and in between household, children call out his name, and adults wave to say hello.

Anaclet has become quite the popular figure in his village, known to most for his relentless sensitization of COVID-19 prevention measures.

*“I feel very strongly that each member of the society should try to play their role in uplifting the standards of living within the community, and thus I decided to join the volunteer programme, for which I am the local area coordinator,” he proudly tells me. *Anaclet Musoni

While there is a lot of information circulating about COVID-19, not all of it is true. Over the years, the trust and recognition Anaclet has gained in the community has positioned him favorably to help address and rebuff rumors and misconceptions about COVID-19. This has helped immensely in keeping Mahama sector free of COVID-19.

Despite several challenges faced – including the country being put under lockdown twice since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, Anaclet and his fellow volunteers remain undeterred. With UNICEF support, the aim is to intensify the community outreach programs to equip as many people as possible with the information they need to stay safe from the virus and avoid spreading it to others in the event of contamination.

“I’ve always wanted to be a soldier”, Anaclet says, smiling wistfully while staring at the ground, seemingly lost in thought. “But I sure feel like one now! We are in a battle with an invisible enemy, and I am proud to play my part. Together, and with continued support from UNICEF, I am sure we will overcome this virus in the not too distant future!” he proclaims.