Belaid is a 38-year-old sociologist and assistant lecturer at Al-Kufra University. He is volunteering with the Libyan Red Crescent Society and joined the PUI community health team to contribute to promoting the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Along with 22 other Community mobilizers, he was trained to play a crucial role in his community tackling misinformation and misconception about Covid-19 and vaccines.
He was also trained on how sharing information in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Government guidelines can build trust among the community, to boost vaccine uptake and buy-in. He says: “Too much conflicting information on vaccines, misinformation, and disinformation negatively impacted people’s attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and intention to accept vaccination. Thus, we were continually briefed on the misinformation, disinformation, and rumors around Covid-19 vaccines and how to build and maintain trust.”
Adopting a community-centered approach, PUI Community Mobilizers visited remote areas and hard-to-reach households, shops, gas stations, public spaces, and primary healthcare facilities up to Tazirbu and Rebyana, 400 KM far away from the main city of Al-Jawf. Through groups and door-to-door awareness sessions, they were answering questions, doubts, and fears around Covid-19 vaccines, and distributing information and education materials.
Messages on the importance, safety, and effectiveness of the vaccines helped patients to make informed decisions about getting the vaccine, particularly for the most vulnerable ones, at high risk of developing serious symptoms. Kadisha, one of PUI Community Mobilizers recalls:” I’m personally not able to forget this elderly man, who visited the primary healthcare facility where we were deployed. He was, seeking medical assistance for his chronic respiratory disease and when I asked whether he was vaccinated against Covid-19, he told me he was not yet. I explained to him that vaccination, combined with hand hygiene and other protective measures, is a critical intervention to protect from severe illness and reduce intensive care admissions numbers. I was thrilled when he decided to take the vaccine and the boosts.”
Moreover, throughout the ongoing Covid-19 immunization campaign, alongside community awareness-raising sessions, an evidence-based advocacy campaign was launched on Al-Kufra local radio station, one of the main trusted local communication channels. The PUI team has worked closely with Al-Kufra Department of Health Services, the National Centre for Diseases Control, and local government representatives to promote positive messages around Covid-19 vaccines and to garner support for vaccinators and healthcare providers. Through live radio sessions and tailored messages, the demand for the vaccine increased. In fact, it was recorded that 72% of the overall visitors of the vaccination centers seek the Covid-19 vaccine as a result of the community outreach and communication campaign strategy.
With the generous contribution of the European Union, Swiss Confederation, and Italian Cooperation, since 2019 PUI has supported more than seven healthcare facilities across Al-Kufra region and continues to provide support to the Department of Health Services in promoting equal access to quality healthcare services for Libyans, refugees, and migrants.