Covid-19: Prioritise social media campaigns to reach the youth, Government Urged

Amref survey shows effectiveness of social media for pandemic awareness

By Samuel Kisika

info@womannewsroom.africa

The Ministry of Health should consider focusing more on social media in reaching out out to more youth with information for an enhanced fight against Covid-19.

This follows findings by an Amref Health Africa survey which established that social media platforms are the leading sources of information for the youth on the deadly pandemic.

The study, which was conducted between April and May 2020 across the 47 counties in Kenya, ranks social media as the top source of information on the coronavirus disease for the youth, at 67 per cent followed by television at 62 per cent.

“Although information sources such as social media and television were the most used sources of Covid-19 related information, response teams need to ensure that such platforms provide accurate information,” the Amref survey says.

At least 2,153 respondents were reached via phone interview and online in the study, which sought to understand knowledge, attitudes, practices, behaviours and the effects of Covid-19 on health among youths in the country.

These findings are reinforced by another survey  of 2018 Social Media Consumption in Kenya by United States International University-Africa and US Embassy which showed that WhatsApp tops usage at 88.6 per cent, followed closely by Facebook at 88.5 per cent then YouTube at 51.2 per cent, among other platforms.     

Youths below 35 years make up 35.7 million of Kenya’s 47.6 million population, according to the 2019 Census.

The Communications Authority of Kenya report indicates thatmobile data subscription in Kenya was 39.1 million between October and December 2019. Social media users were more than 8.5 million.

The youth are hence, a key group to target in messages and champions adherence to numerous preventive measures among their peers and the most vulnerable like the old persons.    

“Use of influencers and experts on these platforms would provide the accurate information on Covid-19 and help shape the behaviour of young people. This would have spiral effects as nearly half also mentioned using friends as sources of information,” reads the Amref report.

Youth accessing information on Coronavirus disease from friends and internet tie at 49 per cent. The least sources of information for youths to get information on the pandemic are community health workers at 8 percent, the church and pharmacies at 5 per cent each, and community meetings at 3 per cent.

Apart from the above sources of information listed by Amref in the survey, the Ministry of Health has been using radio, newspapers, billboards, mobile service providers, among others to disseminate Covid-19 information to the public like observing high levels of hygiene and social distancing.    

Majority of youth were adopting positive behaviours to avoid Covid-19 infections once they started receiving messages on government, Health ministry and World Health Organization measures to combat the spread of the killer disease.

“For example, avoiding unnecessary travel recorded 99 per cent, washing hands more frequently at 98 per cent and use of masks at 98 per cent,” reads the report.

It notes that youth who reported non-compliance to these preventive measures cited lack of water or soap, discomfort in wearing face masks and high costs of sanitizers.  

For instance, 13.1 per cent reported that they had no water in their houses, 21.4 per cent could not afford extra water and 16.4 per cent said water was unavailable in the community.  

Surprisingly, 48 per cent of the youth not complying with the measures did it deliberately.

Youth citing discomfort in wearing masks were placed at 29 per cent, seven per cent do not believe that masks help to curb the spread of Covid-19 while two per cent are not allowed to wear the masks due to breathing problems.    

Regarding use of hand sanitizers, 87 per cent were not using them due to high cost, 20 per cent said they were not easily available for use and about two percent believe that sanitizers do not help in curbing Coronavirus disease.    

In general, most of the youth surveyed exhibited high knowledge on Covid-19 symptoms and prevention measures as a result of information gotten from various sources including social media. 

“Close to 90 per cent of youth can correctly identify at least three symptoms of Covid-19. Of the 15 infection prevention methods listed, females were able to correctly identify 71 per cent of them and males 73 per cent, with no significant differences in the methods mentioned,” states the Amref report.

The Ministry of Health recently commenced the implementation of home-based care programme for asymptomatic patients in bid to free beds in various health facilities amid the soaring cases of Covid-19 cases in the country.

The first batch of 600 asymptomatic patients were released from isolation centres this month to recover from home in full compliance with the Ministry’s Home-based Isolation and Care Guidelines for Patients with Covid-19

The Home-based care programme allows for asymptomatic patients to isolate in homes under the watch of a caregiver who should always adhere to high standard operating procedures to limit further spread of the disease in the community.

Despite rolling out this programme, many people, including youths have expressed lack of information on how the programme works. Some have raised concerns that they would be at high risk of contracting the virus due to inadequate isolation spaces in homes.

Although the Ministry of Health has published the home-based care protocols on its website, sharing the same information on social media, would increase knowledge base, adhere and advocacy for compliance with the guidelines.    

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