Factual information in the time of a pandemic is crucial to public health, safety and wellbeing.
As soon as it became evident that communities would be impacted by COVID-19, borders were closed and reliable health information became difficult to find, the Eastern Africa National Networks of AIDS Service Organisations (EANNASO) adapted a digital platform, they had developed through the EAC-GIZ IIDEA project for educating communities about their nearest healthcare facility, into a real time, latest information portal for health-related news.
Onesmus Mlewa Kalama, EANNASO’s Programme Manager, says, “While COVID-19 has posed a great challenge to all of us, we have taken advantage of this situation and further adapted our digital platform to provide real time COVID-19 statistics as they are updated by WHO and have created a section where communities can get health alerts besides getting information on where to access essential health services like COVID testing centres in Kenya and Tanzania.”
They have already seen an increase in traffic, with the next step of reaching out to the wider communities to inform them of the platform, and creating a place which meets their needs and answers their questions during this difficult time. In creating a hub for the latest information, it will also become a forum for people to share. “We’re looking at more functionalities, including an online forum, to add to the Frequently Asked Questions. We want people to come to us to find out what to do if they are worried about a sick relative, and fully understand symptoms and actions to take in the case of symptoms. We are working with health facilities to include their services and trying to include the most accurate information available.”
“Moving everything online and no longer having community officers in the field has been a challenge but we are seeing quite a lot of interest in people visiting the eacdigital health site and are further thinking of adding relevant information across all EAC partner states especially this time of COVID-19”, stresses Mr Kalama already looking ahead.
The original project was an app to map out where health care services are situated with a particular emphasis on the border between Kenya and Tanzania in the first instance, but with a view to scaling up in the future. It will cover hospitals and clinics and major pharmacies too, listing the services and opening hours of each and in the future also adding the ability to make an appointment through the app platform. It was an obvious change of direction in the time of a crisis. To bring in a fresh take and new solutions on digital engagement and community health EANNASO have also enlisted the help of Masters student interns from the CENIT@EA program.
EANNASO is a partner in the EAC-GIZ IIDEA project. IIDEA incubates small-scale regional integration projects which are proposed and implemented by civil society and private sector across East Africa. IIDEA provides technical and financial support to innovative projects across East Africa that highlight and contribute towards East African integration.
Photo: ©GIZ-IIDEA/Michael Goima