Friday, July 10, 2020

COVID-19 Response in Emergency

Preparedness and Response in a Rapidly Changing Global Landscape By James Achanyi Fontem, camlinknew This COVID-19 Coordination Call is part of a weekly series organised by Cameroonlink which seeks to showcase some creative and innovative approaches being adopted in real time to prepare and respond to the many needs of partners working on the ground around COVID-19. The goal is to identify creative solutions so that those who are most vulnerable get the support and services they desrve.
In the call, Cameroon Link moderates a panel of presenters, followed by a related discussion based on questions submitted by the audience. At the end, we share some of the latest key resources that have been posted in the camlinknews Presentations for the coordination call includes: Global Readiness for Major Disease Outbreak Response The Readiness initiative seeks to augment what already exists to build the capacity of Cicivl Society Organisation (CSO) and Non-governmental organisations (NGO) to respond to infectious disease outbreaks. Its 3 primary objectives are to: (i) improve CSO and NGO coordination, (ii) (ii) strengthen operational capacity, and (iii) (iii) adapt and develop technical readiness. Readiness is a partnership of organisations led by Save the Children. The presentation explains how Readiness was initiated to address gaps in the CSO and NGO response to disease outbreaks, and then outlines what they have done in relation to COVID-19, which includes: running COVID-19 readiness workshops across Cameroon, covering a range of issues including social and behaviour change communication and risk communication and community engagement to support national coordination mechanisms; and developing guidance documents. A number of lessons learned are shared that emerged from the workshops. They include the fact that there is a lack of community case management training among CBOs and NGOs and that COVID-19 guidelines are often removed from the lived reality of individuals. Evidence-based COVID-19 Response Training and Education Cameroon Link is a national health organisation that focuses on health system capacity building. They are on the frontlines of COVID-19 since November 2019, as they have a head office in Grand Hangar-Bonaberi, Douala City neighbourhood. This presentation describes Cameroon Link’s early response activities in several health districts of the country and how these were rolled out globally. One aspect of its response was the development of a readiness and response curriculum and training for community healthcare workers and frontline personnel. The presentation describes the training topics and how the training was designed to address the need to reach a lot of people remotely and in contexts where one size does not fit all. The model Cameroon Link developed involved, among other things, the train-the-trainers methodology with the support of IRESCO Cameroon, which allows for localisation of training and ownership. It also: made use of innovative delivery methods, which entailed work with partners to identify participants and coordinating the training designed to be flexible to allow content to be updated on an ongoing basis. COVID-19 - Community Perspectives Inform the Emergency Response This focuses on the work being done by Cameroon Link around community engagement, which includes misinformation management, establishing community feedback mechanisms, and creating stigma prevention messaging. Related to this, 6 lessons are shared that highlight the importance, among other things, of building trust, listening to the community, and keeping engagement dynamic and agile in a changing environment. The activity also offered 4 solutions guiding the work of Cameroon Link, especially around ABO Health District in the Littoral region of Cameroon. The project initiative emphasizes on including citizen listening and rumour tracking through surveys to inform community engagement and response, as well as building trust by working with key influencers. With the need to move away from face-to-face interaction, quoting a few examples of how Cameroon Link currently engages with communities and discusses, such as the use of community radio national network and hotlines.
Pioneering Local Manufacturing of prevention kits for Better Aid Cameroon Link looks at the work of Field Readiness, an organisation that seeks to address the issue of emergency equipment supply chains and the fact that 70-90% of aid is spent on logistics, as well as the fact that importing equipment from other countries causes unnecessary delays. Through 3D design, it has been able to move manufacturing closer to where items are required. The impacts are discussed, which include cost reduction and support to livelihoods and local business. A number of examples are offered, such as a simple umbilical cord clip and buckets for use in humanitarian crisis situations. In relation to COVID-19. Cameroon Link has activated the local manufacture of personal protective equipment like masks and health and hygiene equipment like buckets and soap. Here, people who have been trained in digital design and manufacturing are making a range of items. They are being supported by technical teams who test the designs before they go into larger production. From June 15, 2020, Cameroon Link began a series of weekly calls of community radio stations with the support of Farm Radio International Canada to convene members and partners to join the network and discuss their institutional positions around a range of topics related to COVID-19 in an effort to coordinate and support the national pandemic response in Cameroon. During each call, people sign up the Farm Radio International partnership agreement for discussion on opportunities and ask questions or share inputs. These discussions are included in the recording sheets of Farm Radio Intenational Canada as the key supporter of Cameroon Link initiatives on COVID 19.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

COVID-19 and Community Ownership in Cameroon

By James Achanyi Fontem, camlinknews It has been noted that a major problem of disease management and research, especially diseases that are sporadic, fatal and viral, is the lack of people-inclusive and empowerment strategies. In Cameroon, communities are basically beneficiaries of a hands-out process rather than a hands-on outcome. This is the case of the alarmist COVID-19 pandemic.
Such a top-down approach has sometimes left the mitigating measures of COVID-19 only in the hands of government, public officials, and elites’ club. This disempowers the main target groups in local communities from a domesticating, indigenous and home-grown discourse. While this is universally understood as a legitimate responsibility of government who should be accountable and responsible to the welfare of citizens, the act now has a paradigm shift from public grandstanding to populist endowment. Strategies like the use of community radio, creation of local task forces, promotion of grassroots distributive economy and enhancement of a proximate, traditional health response stand out visibly. Community radio The messaging on COVID-19 has been limited to two official languages, English and French, yet there is a large community that prefers the message in their Lingua Franca which is Pidgin English or the indigenous national languages. Travellers have noted that the national language changes for every 50 to 75 kms done. Most of the national languages are quite different with different alphabets and tones. This explains why the existence of community radios in hinterlands help to communicate the messages of COVID-19 to the local communities easier and better. Community radio stations reaches out to the largest community using the common language of the rural community. It has persuasive potentials in matters of opinion and belief, because it is independent and not commercial. It has the rare capacity to promote the sharing of information with the potential for immediate feedback. It has geographical or territorial competence broadcasting to a "homogenous public". Community inclusion Community inclusion should focus on creating a COVID-19 task force in the communities. Task forces are local authority's platform for information sharing with the involvement of traditional, religious authorities, women's networks and women's organizations, youth leaders and local Civil Society Organisations and Non-governmental organizations (NGO) in the fight against COVID-19. Also, most communities are filled with village meetings that hold weekly or monthly. There are also other specialized meeting groups for women, men, youths, church, and professionals onlywhich the community members can use as conversation mediums to enhance and disseminate most of what is broadcast in the community radios. Other traditional communication agencies include chiefdoms, quarter heads, town criers, placards etc. Community economy The production and dissemination of anti COVID-19 kits like face masks, hand sanitisers as well as the purchase of hand washing containers and soaps can be done at the community level rather than have them ferried from urban centres. This will help in bolstering grassroots distributive economy and creating a shared robust wealth at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Community reconciliation The Anglophone regions have been in a protracted crisis that has affected their respective health systems, making them vulnerable and susceptible to a pandemic such as COVID-19. Indeed before COVID-19, there was COFID-16. COFID-16 stands for the Conflict Over Federalism, Independence or Decentralisation that attained a manifest crisis in 2016. Can COVID-19 open windows for deeper dialogue and structural justice the way it did in Asia (Island of Indonesia) in the province of Aceh in December 2004 when it was rocked by a tsunami? In its wake and devastation of this tsunami, the warring parties in Aceh realised the senselessness of fighting amidst such a calamity. Within 8 months, both separatist rebels and the government signed a peace agreement in which the insurgent groups renounced their claim to a separate state and in exchange Indonesia agreed to offer a full-fledged special autonomy or special status to the Aceh region. So can COVID-19 trigger a permanent scope for and solution to COFID-16? Community vaccine
A vaccine is a substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases. We are aware that America, Asia and European countries are in the process of manufacturing a conventional vaccine against COVID-19. This however has not stopped local communities from relying on their herbal vaccine and nutritional vaccine. The Archbishop of St. Peter end Paul Diocese in Douala, Archbishop Kleda's and Dr. Fru's highly mediatised herbal vaccines against COVID-19 are products from the artemisia plant and other herbs locally grown in Cameroon’s backyards. Prof. Julius Oben has just carried out research on the potential of "achu" soup (Star Yellow) in managing the spread of COVID-19. Prof. Oben's argument is that the dietary habits of a people determine the bacteria they host, as well as the functioning of their immune system and ability to manage certain infections. No one doubts the health value of most of Cameroon’s local diets. Conclusion The fight against COVID-19 should leave no one behind and no response ignored.

Monday, July 6, 2020

People left behind in decision-making on COVID 19

Best Strategies and What We Are Learning By James Achanyi Fontem, camlinknews As COVID-19 infiltrates the physical, mental, social, economic and geographical landscapes we all inhabit, citizens around Cameroon are forced to obey new national laws and policies on social isolation, lockdowns, and movement restrictions.
For some groups of particularly vulnerable people - the elderly, disabled, those suffering from physical and mental ill-health or those at risk of violence and abuse - the restrictive measures have a significant and negative effect. These people’s health and wellbeing, in all senses, are being corroded. In some cases, people are in extremely threatening and deadly situations. So who is making these decisions on isolation and lockdowns? How do their judgments take into consideration the wider impact on the population and the secondary effects of these restrictions, especially on vulnerable people? We, a group of colleagues working on national health coverage, decided to do a rapid analysis of 6 Community COVID-19 Taskforces to identify their composition and investigate their decision-making processes and what we found out was shocking. PERSPECTIVE Across the full spectrum of Development issues, and the full range of communication, public engagement and media strategies, ill-founded rumours and misinformation are a major problem. Using COVID-19 as a very current example: How can we best respond? Which strategies could be adopted? Drawing from knowledge shared across national platforms, we are seeking your critique and comment on the learning, analysis and proposed strategies that follow. THE CHALLENGE COVID-19 is highly fertile ground for misinformation and rumours, whether accidental and unintended or deliberate and malicious. We all need help to make sense of the mass of information that is being blasted at every one of us. COVID-19 came upon us quickly and unexpectedly. There was no built-up body of knowledge. The reputable information about COVID-19 kept changing and keeps evolving on some vitally important matters – for example: • Can people transmit it when asymptomatic? • If yes, what are the levels of asymptomatic infection? • How long can the virus survive on surfaces? • What effect does the virus have on children and adolescents? • What is the nature and trend of the epidemiological patterns? • What is the effectiveness of already-approved drugs for other health issues? • How long before we get a vaccine? • Can people who have had COVID-19 be re-infected? These are all fertile grounds for rumours and misinformation. The overall disease control strategies adopted make a big difference in the receptiveness of populations to rumours and misinformation. At the strategic level, those strategies will need to ensure: • The accuracy, reliability and consistency of the information being provided; • The credibility and standing of the people delivering that information; and • The resonance with the population - are they engaged? If one or all of these elements are not in place, then the possibility of rumours and misinformation gaining hold and spreading is enhanced. The nearly pervasive presence of basic and smart phones, social networks and WhatsApp groups (or the equivalent) helps provide fuel for rumours and misinformation. Everyone can be an instant news and information machine with reach way beyond any numerical, temporal, geographical, fact-checking or editing constraints. Accuracy, credibility and resonance are vital. In relation to specific actions that are being developed for an effective response to COVID-19, if there is a major gap between the nature of the action encouraged and the possibility for implementation by people and communities, there is further fertile ground for the amplification of disruptive rumours and misinformation. These global recommendations include actions such as: maintain a 6-foot distance, wash hands with soap and water multiple times per day, wear a mask, close down your businesses, stay at home, and cancel all events that normally gather people in large groups such as weddings and funerals. These and other strategies appear to be vitally important for effective COVID-19 action. But in order to avoid creating fertile territory for the strengthening of rumours and misinformation, they will need to be introduced and implemented relative to the conditions in Cameroon as a whole and each community.
There seems to be a continuing dynamic that makes matters worse for effective action and better for rumours and misinformation on challenges posed by COVID-19. What is a fact? What is accurate information? In relation to COVID-19, the trend in many countries is to mix facts and accurate information with opinion, wishes and ideological preferences, and then to present that mix as the truth. In that context, rumours and misinformation flourish. This is an important challenge to confront for effective action on Development priorities such as COVID-19. As with all Development issues, engagement, analysis and action that take into account and work to the gender, local voices, over 100 minority languages, socio-economic and other perspectives, are vitally important as both matters of principle and for effectiveness. They underpin all that follows. STRATEGIES - What should we do? Below are six key points from the learning to date shared through national platforms on how to handle the challenge of misinformation and rumours. A. Go to people – do not expect them to come to you: Premise: Within communities or online, everyone is part of a network. Those networks inter-relate, so there is significant scale. Pointers: 1. Whether in person or online, find ways to identify the most popular and prevalent networks and engage in those spaces. 2. Do not create your own platform and space in the expectation that people will come to you in significant numbers. 3. Find ways to identify the most popular and prevalent networks and engage in those spaces. The people within those networks are often the most credible for others in the network. And that credibility is strengthened by their "ownership" of their own platforms. 4. Negotiate access into fora such as local community meetings, popular social media networks, coalitions of women's groups, journalists' networks, local government alliances, the arts/music community, local and national radio presenters and producers, popular entertainment shows, etc. It should be noted that in each context, these will be different. B. Combine scientific evidence with storytelling, especially through the voices of people directly affected: Premise: Communications either responding to actual misinformation or getting out front of potential rumours and misinformation need to resonate. Facts alone are rarely sufficient. Most people are attracted to and engage with storytelling. Pointers: 1. Recognise the fact that stories resonate. 2. Ensure that the voices and stories of people who have experienced or are at risk of COVID-19 are at the forefront of any communication strategy. 3. Identify and partner with the main storytelling facilitators in your context - from radio and TV dramas to local community "story-tellers". 4. Explore and test which stories are most compelling - the ones that resonate strongest across populations. 5. Have local people tell their own stories in their own ways - authenticity is vitally important. C. Identify and name the rumour and misinformation "source" and motivation: Premise: Most of us have no idea about the sources that initiate, feed or amplify specific rumours and misinformation in our local and national contexts. Therefore, it is difficult to make informed judgments related to accuracy and credibility. Pointers: 1. Support the acquiring of expanded media literacy skills. 2. Do not assume that people will know the rumour/misinformation sources and their motivations. 3. Identify and "name" the sources of rumours and misinformation and/or those escalating the presence of the rumours and misinformation. 4. Understand and shine a light on the possible motivations of the communicator (e.g., money, politics, personal ambition, personal anecdotal experiences, and ideology) of the rumour or misinformation in a manner that can help to undermine and neutralise its potency. D. Undertake two-way communication that responds to the public's concerns as a conversation: Premise: As outlined within "The Challenges" above, there is a lot we do not know and are still learning about COVID-19. The facts can change and are changing. Pointers: 1. Be aware that, in this context as with many other Development issues, the value of traditional message-driven communications is severely weakened; there are just too many questions. 2. Initiate and facilitate population-level conversations, whether in digital or other environments. 3. Use those conversations to engage with people on their questions and concerns. 4. Ensure there are participants in those conversations who are viewed as credible. 5. Check or question the sources of information shared in the conversations, being aware that deliberate misinformation is sometimes disguised as an official communication from a reputable source. 6. Do not be didactic and all-knowing. 7. Avoid political and ideological affiliation in anything that is being communicated. 8. Allocate resources to establish and facilitate those conversations. E. Get your own facts straight! Premise: Nothing undermines an anti-rumour and anti-misinformation strategy more than getting the facts and information that are the base of that strategy wrong. Pointers: 1. Get your sources right. 2. Get your facts right. 3. Verify images and videos. 4. Get maps right. 5. Do not get the basics wrong. 6. Be very transparent about what is NOT known about COVID-19. 7. Remember that humility can go a long way in increasing the trust needed to counter rumours and misinformation.

Working with and for Young People to fight COVID-19

By James Achanyi Fontem, camlinknews Young people, seriously affected by COVID-19 are part of the global response in Cameroon
This guidance article from Cameroon Link is meant to assist humanitarian actors, youth-led organisations, and young people across sectors, working at local community and health district levels, in their response to the new coronavirus pandemic affected. It begins diagnostically, exploring the impacts of COVID-19 on young people. It then proposes a series of actions that practitioners and young people can take to ensure that COVID-19 preparedness, response plans, and actions are youth-inclusive and youth-focused - with and for young people. As detailed in the first part of a report, the global crisis has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities and inequalities experienced by young people, all further amplified in humanitarian contexts where fragility, conflict, and emergencies have undermined institutional capacity and limited access to services. Impacts are outlined in the areas of health, safety and protection, finances, and civic space and participation. To name just a few examples here: • Many young people do not have adequate levels of health literacy to enable them to gain access to, understand, and use information in ways that protect their health and well-being. Health literacy includes the timely recognition of the need for health or other services, the ability to seek advice and care, the ability to navigate complicated health systems, and the skills to critically assess health-related information concerning and detecting misleading or inaccurate online information. There is also the lack of life-saving information in accessible formats like videos with closed captioning and sign language. This puts young people with disabilities at higher risk. • In the midst of the large-scale interruption of learning, including non-formal and informal learning, due to school closures around the country, large numbers of young people do not have regular and affordable internet access and often fall behind as learning and participation shift to online platforms. • The government of Cameroon is invoking executive powers and calling for measures such as lockdowns, quarantines, and increased surveillance in response to COVID-19. In the absence of sunset provisions, while civic space contract freedom of assembly, privacy, and expression is negatively affected and silencing young people's calls for change. On the other hand, these restrictions leave young peacebuilders and human rights or environmental defenders less protected against attacks and threats. It has been noted however that, in spite of the multiple impacts of COVID-19, many adolescents and youth have mobilised to respond to the crisis. Young people disseminate accurate information on COVID-19 in some communities, tackling myths and stigma, policing fake news, and supporting information-sharing programmes on risk reduction, community preparedness, and response efforts. Young people can be at the forefront of finding new ways to communicate with their governments, mass media, medical services, and their communities through channels such as the radio, WhatsApp, text message, social media, and videoconferencing platforms. Young people can also help mitigate the impact and consequences of the crisis in the longer term, including by engaging around issues such as promoting social cohesion and countering hate speech, xenophobia, human rights violations, and violence, and by building strong and inclusive initiatives. Through social media, they are finding ways to remotely check on, and support, others' mental health. We recommend stake-holder to structure activities with five (5) key actions: 1. Services: o Health: Ensure that COVID-19 response plans are sensitive to adolescent- and youth-specific healthcare needs, including sexual and reproductive health (SRH), mental health, and psycho-social support. This will ensure that healthcare providers, support staff, and community workers respect, protect, and fulfill adolescents' and young people's rights to information, privacy, confidentiality, and non-discrimination in a non-judgmental and respectful manner. Additional safeguards are needed to ensure that confidentiality is not compromised in situations of restricted mobility. o Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH): This ensure that young people have access to a water supply for drinking and personal hygiene, sanitation services, handwashing facilities with soap, and menstrual health management (MHM) supplies. This may include supporting youth networks and young people to lead and engage in hygiene promotion activities to encourage handwashing with soap and other behaviours to prevent the spread of infection. o Education: Stake-holder should support continued learning for young people, including migrants, refugees, and displaced young people. New methods, such as remote coaching or mentoring, is needed to be designed that cover life skills, comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), and theoretical content, to keep young people engaged until they return to school. Educators should be trained in online safety and behaviour.
o Protection: We should ensure the protection of young people in COVID-19 prevention and mitigation measures, coordinate closely with adolescent SRH actors, and ensure that practitioners are trained in youth-friendly communication techniques and basic response to gender-based violence (GBV), along with issues related to adolescent girls, such as child marriage. Promoting information sharing with and by young people on available protection and care services through hotlines, referral pathways, etc. Livelihoods, cash, and markets: It is important to train young people to cope with the financial impact they are likely to experience as a result of the pandemic, and mentor them. 2. Participation: o Stake-holders should maintain connections with young people and youth organisations in the networks, considering solutions that do not accrue costs related to data and/or making sure content is produced in a low-resolution format, while also considering the relative sensitivity of various platforms to hacking, trolling, or other types of online abuse. o Encourage inclusive information-sharing that is accessible online and offline, considering barriers to access that young people living with disabilities may face. o Actively engage young people in responses to COVID-19 as health workers, advocates, volunteers, scientists, social entrepreneurs, and innovators. o Engage young people, including the most marginalised, in assessing the impact of COVID-19 on their communities and in monitoring and evaluating COVID-19 responses. o Tackle the spread of inaccurate information, debunk myths, and confront stigma by linking youth leaders and youth-led organisations to the media to amplify their voices and better address fake news and stigma, training them to give good interviews. o Support access to youth-friendly content, and work with young people to develop content by collaborating with artists, social media influencers, or other figures popular among young people to spread reliable information in creative ways. o Apply the "do no harm" approach, and ensure safe and ethical participation of young people at all times. 3. Capacity: o Stake-holders should build the capacity of, and support, youth-led organizations, particularly those engaging marginalised youth, including young refugees and internally displaced young people living in informal urban settlements and slums to: engage in COVID-19 response coordination with other humanitarian actors, access funding, and design and deliver programmes. Pull together capacity-building resources and deliver them remotely, including possibly using local radio/flyers and low-resolution content. Ensure the following topics are covered in capacity-building materials:  Effective communication skills and basic information on human, refugee, and migrant rights as they relate to the ongoing pandemic;  How to counter common misconceptions, rumours, and myths spread offline and online, and how to combat xenophobia, stigma, and discrimination associated with COVID-19; and  How to be a responsible online citizen, including the basics of online safety and incident-reporting pathways. o Build the capacity of governments, United Nations agencies, and civil society organisations (CSOs) leading response and coordination efforts for the meaningful engagement of youth. 4. Resources: o The government and international organizations should fund the COVID-19 mitigation initiatives of youth-led organisations, including young women's collectives, and ensure that funding streams are reliable, transparent, sustained, and flexible. o Advocate for the inclusion of young people in coordination mechanisms where funding decisions are made. o Co-design programmes and proposals with adolescent and youth groups and, where possible, include a budget for their projects in agency budgets. 5. Data: o It is important to generate and share data disaggregated by age, sex, and disability especially on who is using health services, accessing communication materials, participating in learning activities, and asking for and receiving GBV support. o Support adolescent- and youth-led and community-driven monitoring and accountability of COVID-19 responses by collecting, collating, and disseminating data on positive actions being taken by young people around the country to tackle COVID-19). .

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Central Africa Emergency COVID 19 Fund - Cameroon

June 2020 Monthly Report By James Achanyi Fontem, camlinknews
In late May 2020, it was decided that FRI could offer the COVID19 Emergency Fund to broadcasting partners in Central Africa. It was likely that most applicants will be from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)RC and Cameroon, although there could be some other applicants from other Central African countries like Congo-Brazzaville, Burundi, and Rwanda , given that FRI has broadcasting partners in these areas and are connected to these partners via email and WhatsApp. The application process was circulated by FRI Canada in two languages, notably in English and French. Two separate application forms were created based on the existing English and French application forms for other FRI countries. The fund and these application forms were promoted primarily via WhatsApp, but also through an email and reminder, beginning early June. The applications were gathered into two spreadsheets (one English, one French) in the Element 4 in an Emergency Fund Requests folder on the Gdrive. The review process with evaluation committee will includes FRI representation: Kathryn Burnham & Hannah Tellier, Finance representation, Abdoul Aziz Zonou, Regional representation Representatives from CORACON & Cameroon Link. The FRI representatives had to check the spreadsheets regularly at lest minimum 3 times a week and share any new applications with the rest of the committee, which had to consider the merits of the applications. The FRI representative also had the role of verifying that the applicants were existing broadcasting partners. The representatives from Cameroon Link & CORACON assisted in the validation process through verification of the applications as well, by contacting the organizations to gather information related to: - Proof that the key contact works at the station, which was registered in its country - Verification of the stated needs in the application & ability to procure the equipment desired (if applicable) - Bank information for the organization or individual to transfer the funds. The evaluation committee met twice, the first time in late-June to review the applications already submitted and to award the funds. A second round of selection is expected to take place in July or August 2020 based on the level of popular applications. The transfer of funds by FRI is handling through bank transfer to the station’s account or using individual transfer by Western Union where necessary, If the station is in a rural area without access to Western Union or bank. CORACON is assisting with transfer of fund through mobile money in extreme difficult situations. Representatives from CORACON and Cameroon Link are assisting in following up in August and September 2020 with stations awarded the funds to gather: - A photo of the station and broadcasters - A short description of how the funds were used and how the station staff & listeners benefited with an emphasis on how women, youth, and marginalized communities may have benefited. - A short description of how their radio station addressed the COVID-19 situation with its programming. - Feedback on FRI’s resources, particularly resources & services produced related to COVID-19 - Have they used any of FRI resources? How? What did they like / dislike? - Did they participate in WhatsApp discussions with experts? What did they like or dislike? - How would the stations rate their satisfaction with the emergency fund process? The application process? The transfer of funds? The follow up from local networkers? On the 5th June 2020, Cameroon Link received the following instructions on: Local Networker Objectives 1. 1st objective: Support radio stations in the use of FRI resources, FRI services including WhatsApp and hotline and FRI emergency fund To achieve the objective: • Follow the work plan requested by the Networking Focal Point The Networking Focal Point (NFP) provided Cameroon Link with expectations for the entire project and detailed expectations per week. (For example: "In the first week, Cameroon Link promoted the emergency fund and how FRI was going to deliver it. In the second week, Cameroon Link promoted the whtasapp and hotline links. • Promote gender equality in all Cameroonn Link activities Value the contributions of women and men equally, which meant making extra efforts to obtain women's contributions. Every day and at every stage of our work, we aim to represent the diverse needs and interests of women, men and other vulnerable groups. Share the information needed for understanding the implications of COVID-19 related to gender inequality (for example, women's higher risk of contracting the virus since they are often the ones who care for the sick, and the increase in violence against women in times of crisis). Make a maximum commitment to contact an equal number of men and women. when Cameroon Link calls or writes to a man, we also call and write to a woman. FRI recognizes that this is sometimes difficult to achieve, but is our responsibility to strive for this goal as much as possible. • Cameroon Link maintains regular, one-on-one contact with each station's broadcasters Responds on the same day to the messages it received (whether they are WhatsApp messages, emails or phone calls). Cameroon Link adapted its tools of communication to the specific needs of individuals. With the list of radio stations provided by the Networking Focal Point (NFP), it was ensured that Cameroon Link remained in close contact with the radio stations that do not contact us. Every day, we contacted at least 5 male and 5 female broadcasters, representing a daily total of 10 different radio stations. Contact with a radio station means that Cameroon Link had to individually writte or call one or more people from that radio station using WhatsApp, Messenger, Telegram and/or telephone). It is should be noted that contacting a person through a WhatsApp group is not an individual approach. For this reason, Cameroon Link noted the names of the radio stations, as well as the names of the people contacted including their gender. • Cameroon Link prioritized "marginalized" radio broadcasters and radio stations located in rural communities.Marginalized radio stations' means a radio station located in a remote area and/or broadcasting in a local minority language and/or with fewer financial resources and/or fewer staff and/or less technical capacity and internet than the average. Cameroon Link had to identify the specific needs of people from marginalized groups and respond to their needs with specific information. It prioritizes networking with marginalized radios, with radios that target marginalized groups, and with non-active broadcasters in WhatsApp groups. • Cameroo Link found ways to include broadcasters who are not proficient in English of French when communicating with them was difficult. Pidgin English is spoken in over 9O% of Cameroon communities where the local language of our interlocutor is not understood for the information Cameroon Link shared, but also so that he / she felt valued when he / she communicated his / her opinions and suggestions. If the person does not speak English or French and we do not speak the person's local language, we informed the Networking Focal Point. He / she could help us by putting us in touch with another local networker or another person who could facilitate the conversation. It should be noted that there is no extra budget allocated or translation in this COVID 19 project. • Cameroon Link uses the various social media and digital tools to enable broadcasters to share issues and experiences on COVID-19 and to support each other. We encourage our broadcasting partners to join the WhatsApp group or Telegram / Facebook group to be part of our community of practice and share discussions, experiences, local information and their questions, • Cameroon Link contributes to the search for information from reliable and verified sources, by searching to receive a large flow of information on COVID-19 and the impact of this emergency activity in Cameroon on gender equality and women in particular, then verify its reliability and sort it out before sharing some of it. The slightest doubt about the reliability of an item of information is prevented from disseminating without any hesitation. • Cameroon Link contributes to the fight against fake news on air, networks and digital platforms. We ask to the radio stations what information they broadcast in their programmes. Check to be sure that the information is accurate. We encourage review of sources of information to be aware of fake news by checking the WHO and Africa Check websites. We ask the community radio stations on how the programmes address gender equality issues. The second objective of Cmeroon Link is to Support the radio stations in the improvement of their COVID-19 programmes through animation, journalism and technical know-how. To achieve this objective Cameroon Link follows the work plan requested by the Networking Focal Point . The Networking Focal Point (NFP) has provided us with expectations for the entire project, but also with detailed expectations per week. Cameroon Link promotes gender equality in all its activities through understanding and analysis of information on gender equality. It makes and effort to sure that we get broadcasters to question themselves about gender equality issues and avise them to contact gender equality experts in the ministry of women’s affairs or respective regional delegations in the country to support them. They should ask questions like “Does each piece of information apply equally to the realities of women and men? Do women have the power to decide to implement the proposed measures on COVID 19?” The aim of Cameroon Link is to try to get broadcasters to think about the gender implications of such a crisis like COVID 19. Gender-based violence is often on the increase in crisis situations: “Is it a phenomenon observed in Cameroon’s local communities? Are there services available to help women in their communities?” It is also very important to respect and enforce VOICE standards while communicating. See the FRI fundamentals at all times and apply them. • Broadcastes should respect and enforce FAIR standards and apply these FRI fundamentals at all times in the delivery of their activities: • Cameroon Link motivates broadcasters to take pride in their work and encourage Them with Congratulatory messages and certificates. We emphasize on the positive aspects of broadcasters’ work on and off the air and celebrate radio stations' successes with them. Cameroon Link also share good news with other radio stations to value people. Cameroon Link’s third objective is to Increase FRI’s network of radio stations To achieve this objective : • Cameroon Link follows the work plan requested by the Networking Focal Point The Networking Focal Point (NFP) has provided us with expectations for the entire project, but also with detailed expectations per week. • This implies enrolling new broadcasting partners in the FRI network, encouraging new radio stations to become FRI Broadcasting Partners and have them complete the Broadcasting Partner Participation Agreement. Cameroon Link review the list of FRI's broadcasting partners, identify radio stations that are not on that list, and then contact them to provide them materials about FRI. The fourth and last objective of Cameroon Link is Sharing insights from our interactions with radio stations to improve FRI services To achieve this objective Cameroon Link FM Network follows the work plan requested by the Networking Focal Point . The Networking Focal Point (NFP) has provided us with expectations for the entire project, but also with detailed expectations per week. While promote gender equality in all our activities, we pay particular attention to good practices related to gender equality, as well as to radio stations that have the capacity to address these issues related to COVID-19. The observations and comments we receive are shared with the Networking Focal Point and the Gender Focal Point like sharing information about services available to women survivors of violence, radio stations taking specific steps to address the needs of women. Cameroon Link collects information and views from radio stations and communities to share with FRI. Assist us in collecting any ideas, comments, questions or reactions from other radio stations and listeners that could help improve FRI's work with us. Share them with the Networking Focal Point and other FRI colleagues. These may include comments or questions related to COVID 19 project beneficiaries, the use of FRI resources and how to improve them, our networking, our responses to gender inequality issues, FRI emergency fund, our impact results, our experiences,...It may also include important local information. For more information, please visit these links:

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Rapid Gender Analysis of COVID 19 in Cameroon

By James Achanyi Fontem, CEO, Cameroon Link "Women are excluded from information sharing on COVID-19 and from key high level decision making processes at national, regional and health district level....Despite this, the analysis reveals how coronavirus is also creating opportunities to disrupt deeply positive strategies and deeply entrenched gender inequalities."
The COVID-19 crisis and the application of the preventive measures taken in Central Africa region , including movement restriction measures (confinement, curfew, border closures), social distancing, and the closure of schools, have had an impact on all aspects of people's lives. camlink's COVID-19 pandemic response strategy in Central Africa region, most of whose countries were already fragile, has emphasised gender-focused and feminist approaches. To that end, the organisation carries out a Rapid Gender Analysis (RGA) with the objective of highlighting and understanding the gendered impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and formulating practical recommendations for direct response and advocacy. For the RGA, camlink has interviewed 24 persons (52% women and 48% men) representing communities, technical and health districts, and national non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and women's rights organisations across 6 regions of Cameroon in Central Africa region. Using a do-no-harm approach, with a focus on mitigating the risk to camlink staff and communities, data collection (June 6-15, 2020) was done remotely by phone, using instant messaging services, and, when appropriate, face to face using distancing measures. Key findings, with an emphasis on communication-related findings: • With widespread government lockdowns, humanitarian actors are having increased difficulty reaching those in need. World Bank projections around the COVID-19 pandemic's impacts forecast a reduction to the already-low human development score. According to the Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC), the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could increase the number of people at risk of food insecurity and malnutrition from 7 million to 20 million people between June and September 2020. Women are particularly at high risk in this context. • Women are suffering from more gender-based violence (GBV) due to general social stress combined with the increasing tensions surrounding having the family sequestered at home, on top of limited access to food and basic supplies. The informal social safety nets and networks many women previously relied on for support are weakened due to reduced physical mobility and social distancing.
• There is an overarching fear of contracting the disease and social distrust, especially towards foreigners, people coming from big cities, and those with elderly family members. Respondents repeatedly mentioned a sense of anxiety, in particular by youth, who are out of school and unable to access their routine activities. Meanwhile, very few mental health services exist that can offset the need for support. • Women confirm that government and health clinics have diverted energy and attention away from sexual reproductive and health and rights (SRHR) services. Between social distancing slowing down service provision and fear of attending clinics, it is very hard for women to access SRHR services. A decreasing number of youth accessing health services was also noted. • Misinformation is easier to access than official information. People are relying heavily on traditional healers, and rumours are spreading faster than official government information. At the same time, women and youth have little access to traditional information channels like TV and radio because men control these outlets in the household. In addition, broadcasts sharing information usually air at times when women are doing domestic labour. Women reported WhatsApp to be the most preferred source of information, as it is accessible for illiterate populations. Relying on social media carries risks, however, as these media is a common source of false information. • In general, the respondents have a good knowledge of preventive measures, but they are not likely to apply many of them. Hand washing is the most commonly practiced preventative measure, because hand washing stands are available in public places, and previous experience with cholera and Islamic ritual washing makes hand washing a common habit. However, precarious living conditions and high population density in working-class neighbourhoods (especially in urban areas) make it difficult to practice social distancing. • Overall, the participation of women in community decisions is not systemic and remains subject to their availability, as described by a respondent from Bomono: "Women participate in decision-making forums if that does not coincide with the moments of their domestic tasks." However, the RGA identified several opportunities that can be seized - in the immediate and long terms - in the context of the pandemic to effect lasting changes: • Availability and adaptability of actors at community level ready to support prevention activities: Community leaders and women members of Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) groups are already raising awareness of the preventive measures of the disease. Members are changing their group methodology to allow for social distancing and to support hygiene while maintaining solidarity and safety nets. Even beyond COVID-19: "We could relay messages shared during meetings to reach women who do not have television, radio, telephone, and social media and who do not understand French or English," said a woman leader member of a VSLA. • Development of digital operating capacity: This pandemic has demonstrated that it is possible to work remotely if given the appropriate capacities, which could serve as a trigger for humanitarian actors to develop the capacities required to continue interventions remotely in the future if and when necessary. • The transformation of gender roles and relationships within households: The long period of confinement has brought families together: "Men no longer go to the bars to drink," said a respondent from Grand Hangar Quarter. On the contrary, they are involved in domestic tasks, which undoubtedly enables them to understand the implicit struggles. Men may be more willing to continue their domestic work even after the confinement and the pandemic. • Opportunity to develop local or women-led innovation and technology at local level: Instances such as the design and construction of washing stands with local or recycled materials and the creative use of social media during the pandemic have shown that "with a little imagination and support", men, women, and young adolescents "can develop innovative and attractive initiatives that could strengthen their socio-economic empowerment while reducing their vulnerability to the risks of GBV." Selected recommendations: Ensuring a community-led response • Engage women, youth (both boys and girls), traditional leaders, and religious leaders in analysis, problem solving, and decision making to address this complex socio-cultural and economic issue. • Involve all stakeholders in the design and development and identification of outlets for COVID-19 prevention messages and communication to reach vulnerable populations. This should include messaging around engaging men and boys in shared household tasks, sharing decision-making power between men and women, participation of women, GBV and positive masculinities, rumours and false information about COVID-19, and more. • Do not ignore or isolate youth. Instead, listen to their concerns and ideas, and include them in seeking solutions and innovations for adaptation and prevention. Invest in out-of-school, COVID-19 safe activities for youth so they can actively contribute to the community response and engage in social development. • Ensure women have access to accurate information via VSLA groups and their social networks to then share amongst their WhatsApp groups and other networks. Strengthening food and nutrition security - e.g., ensure households understand the importance of nutrition through community awareness campaigns so everyone can base their family meals on accurate information.
Supporting early recovery initiatives and strengthening economic activities for women and members of VSLA groups - e.g., support these groups in the use of smart phones / tablets and social media to initiate online sales locally. Addressing GBV • Ensure that adequate and appropriate prevention and response measures are put in place for GBV among essential services, such as information for support (e.g., hotlines). • Support the implementation of safe spaces for women that are specifically adapted to the COVID-19 context, which could include VSLA-led virtual safe spaces. • Encourage innovations for VSLA members to maintain strong social safety nets and member solidarity to provide support and protection. • Support initiatives to discourage child marriage, which has increased as a coping mechanism during the pandemic. Strengthening access to services and basic health care • Ensure basic health services for issues other than COVID-19 are available, including through remote clinics and increased home visits by trained community health workers. • Equip health centres with information and communication systems on the disease for health service seekers and visitors. • Ensure accurate health centre outreach to communities with accurate information, as many women and children are afraid of accessing formal health services. • Ensure messages are designed and use the appropriate channels to reach adolescent boys and girls and women. Seizing the opportunity to reduce the digital divide • Engage youth (boys and girls) to identify the best digital platforms for information sharing, reinforcement of social safety nets, and sharing of accurate information. • Promote women's engagement with digital spaces through support to VSLAs for the identification and inclusion of remote operation measures in the VSLA module and operating rules. • Connect women and youth with media agencies and mobile phone companies for the production of jingles on the above themes and their dissemination as default ringtones, etc. • Connect women and youth with impact/innovation hubs for solutions so as to reduce the spread of COVID-19. • Ensure marginalised communities, especially women and youth, can be heard through the establishment of mechanisms of accountability and monitoring, as well as through the management of complaints and abuses via cell phone communication platforms. • Resource and train communities so as to establish remote monitoring of humanitarian programmes through mobile applications.


James Achanyi-Fontem, CEO Cameroon Link
"Gender-responsive design, implementation and monitoring of humanitarian programmes rely heavily on consultations, community-based approaches and face-to-face interactions with women and men, who are severely impacted by COVID-19 containment measures.. As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rises among the estimated 160,000 Nigerian and Central African Republic refugees residing in 6 overcrowded areas in the far north and east regions of Cameroon, makeshift camps in Kousseri and Garoua Boulai, humanitarian agencies must change the ways they deliver programmes in order to maintain physical distancing and adhere to strict hygiene protocols. By examining how these changes are impacting the ability to deliver gender-responsive and gender-sensitive programmes (GSP), Cameroon Link hopes in this report to inform humanitarian responders and enable them to consider strategies to mitigate any risks. Cameroon Link explains here that, since 2019, gender actors in Cox's Bazaar tents have been working to focus the humanitarian response to the specific needs of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups. They have, for example, promoted gender equality through gender mainstreaming and used advocacy and other approaches to support the empowerment of women and girls. However, with community engagement strategies needing adaptation to COVID-19 containment measures, and some key initiatives such as capacity-building around women's leadership being largely placed on hold, the concern is that gains achieved in the past year could be reversed. To understand the situation, Cameroon Link conducted 4 key informant interviews from June 15-20, 2020 with gender and protection experts working across the humanitarian sectors in the Kousseri and Garoua Boulai refugee response. The researchers also examined publicly available secondary data. Kousseri perceptions included in the report were collected by the International Organization for Migration (IOM)'s Communicating with Communities (CwC) team, which includes camlink field researchers, through a weekly awareness and data collection exercise guided by COVID-19 analytical framework.
The analysis identified risks such as: • Given the rapid pace of the COVID-19 response, GSP may not be prioritised because it is not considered life-saving, and protection issues may be overlooked during a time where protection needs are actually increasing - creating further discrimination, exploitation, and unequal access to services. • Limited access of gender and protection staff to the field due to COVID-19 restrictions entails risk that the response will be unable to quickly identify and respond to urgent gender and protection needs going forward. • In addition to facing increased insecurity in the camps, camlink female volunteers report being stigmatised and harassed due to their association with international humanitarian workers, who are perceived as vectors of the disease. Furthermore, socially restrictive norms limit the access of women and girls to public spheres; women who do not strictly adhere to these norms often experience backlash. The resultant reduced presence of female staff and volunteers could diminish humanitarians' ability to equally serve women and men. In the strict social-religious context of Kousseri and Garoua Boulai communities, it is not acceptable for women to substantially interact with men outside of their households, which is why the presence of female staff and volunteers is essential to delivering humanitarian assistance and services to women.
COVID-19 has disrupted face-to-face interactions in safe places such as women friendly spaces (WFS), which have been a key way to reach those in need of safe gender-based violence (GBV) - the rates of which are elevated during lockdown - and child protection case management and referrals. Movement and access restrictions limit the ability of case managers to interview survivors privately and confidentially, and experts report that women do not trust or feel comfortable using phones for such sensitive issues. • Poor mobile and internet connections have made it difficult to inform the population of changes to services and of COVID-19 developments, as well as to ensure they have access to humanitarian services. This is particularly the case for women (as well as children and the elderly), who are substantially less likely than men to have access to (and/or time to use) mobile communication. • Essential awareness messages not specific to COVID-19, such as on GBV, sexual and reproductive health (SRH), and gender, often disseminated through distribution sites and service centres, may not be prioritised over public health messages. Moreover, public health messages are not always gender-responsive, resulting in information being either inaccessible to women and girls (in format and content) or not relevant to them. • Providing essential information and ensuring continuous engagement and consultation with the affected population is challenging in the COVID-19 context, especially for women, girls, and other vulnerable populations with less access to public space. Specifically, the voices of women and other marginalised groups are likely to be underrepresented when relying solely on the remote data collection methods that are necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, there are some potential benefits to emerge from this situation; for instance: • The increased role of volunteers in the response necessitated by restrictions on official humanitarian workers presents an opportunity to build on past efforts to empower refugee volunteers, especially women, to work within their own communities to identify problems, and solutions. Specifically, more than 20 volunteers across all 6 camps and adjacent Garoua Boulai communities in the east region are conducting awareness sessions and outreach to the most vulnerable to disseminate life-saving messages. Despite social and cultural challenges, Kousseri and Garoua Boulai women in particular have been self-mobilising, forming networks, and raising awareness on COVID-19 across all camps. • Major changes in distributions, particularly door-to-door modalities, have some positive impacts on gender-sensitive programming, including: reducing the need for vulnerable households, particularly female-headed households, to travel to distribution points and carry heavy items; ensuring that distributed goods (e.g., menstrual hygiene management kits) make it to households; and helping deliver life-saving messages door to door to those with less access to public spaces who would not normally receive such messages. • Some gender experts highlighted that, as their normal protection programmes have been put on hold due to the restrictions, they have been able to shift their attention to increasing capacity to strengthen gender and protection mainstreaming in essential assistance and services such as isolation and treatment centres. • Reportedly, funding for gender programming has not been negatively impacted in the short term by the COVID-19 pandemic