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As part of the ECOWAS Regional Program supporting Pandemic Prevention (RPPP) RPPP risk communication strategy, Sensi Tech Innovation Hub in partnership with GIZ and GFA have completed a four days (28th-31st May) Health Hackathons on Risk Communication competition for Sierra Leone at the Sensi Tech Hub in Freetown.

 

At the end of the competition, FOCUS 1000 Communications Unit staff led the team that came second. Non staff of FOCUS 1000 include: Kumba Matilda Senessie a female student of Fourah Bay College, two ICT students from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology Sierra Leone Amadu Kamara and Alusine Jalloh, including Lamin Kargbo  student of Government Technical Institute.

Young people were drawn from ICT backgrounds, Creativity and Innovation Institutions, Public Health Experts, NGOs/Development Agencies, Media were engaged. During the four days,16 teams were formed to develop solutions that would reduce risks during emergencies.

The teams were guided to look at solutions that will address the following challenges during emergencies :
– COORDINATION – Managing changing communication problems
– SOCIAL MOBILISATION & COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT – Communication with communities at risk to understand their perceptions and needs
– MEDIA – Media outreach, social media and new media

All the sixteen teams developed ideas, but the judges identified three ideas.
The second place team led by FOCUS 1000 Communications Unit, came up with a solution called, Kombra Health Emergency Alert (KHEA).

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The team busy putting their solution together

The Kombra Health Emergency is a solution uses system device to broadcast approved SMS messages through Android application using Frontline SMS system to key community influencers such as (Religious leaders, Media, Traditional Healers, Market Women, Health workers, Teachers and Keke and Bike riders) before, during and after an emergency.

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This system is very appropriate for the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and it partners during emergencies and also cost effective to share SMS to target audiences in promoting National Health Campaign messages such as immunization campaign.

It could be recalled that the efforts to stem the 2013-2015 Ebola epidemic revealed fundamental deficits in the health policies and strategies of the afflicted West African countries – but also of regional and international organizations. The spread of the epidemic was exacerbated by cross-border migration in West Africa, basic shortcomings in healthcare systems, loss of public confidence in health authorities and ineffectual risk communication.
The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its specialist institution for health, the West African Health Organization (WAHO), have a mandate to assist member states in controlling epidemics.

That ECOWAS support is in-progress and on-track, but it requires further institutional support. The Regional Program supporting Pandemic Prevention in the ECOWAS Region (RPPP) programme objective is defined as “advice provided by the ECOWAS Commission, the ECOWAS institutions and specialized agencies to ECOWAS member states on setting up selected disease control mechanisms in keeping with the International Health Regulations (IHR)”.

Risk communication is one of the core competencies of IHR that countries need to strengthen in this context. The working definition of Risk Communication from the IHR working group refers to the real-time exchange of information, advice and opinions between experts or officials and people who face a threat (hazard) to their survival, health or economic or social well-being.

Its ultimate purpose is that everyone at risk is able to take informed decisions to mitigate the effects of the threats from a disease outbreak and take protective and preventive action. To achieve this, risk communication can use a mix of communication and engagement strategies and tactics, including – but not limited to – media communications, social media, mass awareness campaigns, health promotion, stakeholder engagement, social mobilization and community engagement.

The programme intervenes at the regional level as well as in the focus countries affected by the recent Ebola epidemic: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Nigeria.

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FOCUS 1000 CEO receives certificate from the team

FOCUS 1000 CEO has met with the KHEA Net Team and made commitment to provide the enable environment to make the idea of KHEA becomes a reality. “This solution is still an idea, as a team, develop a comprehensive plan and budget on how we can support you” says Mr. Mohammad Bailor Jalloh CEO FOCUS 1000.

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