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【Kenya】Raising coronavirus awareness using comics

2020.9.9

In March of this year, Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) began working with local facilitators and other organizations to prevent a coronavirus outbreak in the Caroveei refugee residential area and the surrounding area in northwestern Kenya. In June, we created and distributed a comic for kids to raise awareness by explaining the virus as well as its preventative measures.

When the staff first entered the refugee settlement in early March, the children playing soccer scattered when they first saw the car driving in. When asked why, they told us that the local police and organizations would have scolded them for being in groups. This indicated to us that the coronavirus prevention measures had not been properly conveyed to the children.

We believe that the people’s fear of death and social sanctions associated with the coronavirus is counterproductive to prevention and can even promote stigma (discrimination and prejudice) against the infected and caregivers. This has been a problem in the past with diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Ebola. Teaching the community about risks, preventative measures, and how to implement these measures is a key step in preventing an outbreak which is why we are providing lessons for people in the community. We also found that many children in the community were uncertain and scared of the virus which is why we decided to create and distribute a comic about the virus to make information more accessible.

Based off of a comic created by the well-known Malaka Gharib of the American National Public Radio (NPR), it was re-written and re-illustrated by Kenyan cartoonist Billy Mugambi and adopted for Kenyan children and refugees. This comic introduces not only the route of infection and preventive measures (hand washing, touching the face, cough etiquette, social distancing), but also the characteristics of the coronavirus, its symptoms and the difference in degrees of infection. In addition, various people in the community from experts to community volunteers are also taking measures so that children can live their normal lives while still following safety measures.

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Giving out the comic to the kids

When the comics, written in English and Swahili, were distributed, the children were overjoyed and immediately shouted, “It’s a corona comic!” After reading, they always say “2 meters!” while playfully making sure there’s enough space between each other. Even a few days after the comic was released, we could see some children carefully holding onto their comic.

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The distributed comic

A 14-year-old South Sudanese refugee girl told us, “Every day, children and adults around me talk about ‘corona’, but I didn’t understand what it was and didn’t take it seriously. I’m glad I read this comic. From now on, I would like to carry out proper hand washing and cough etiquette, as well as convey the importance to the people around me.” We are currently making a picture-story show based on this comic so that we can convey the message to children who cannot read.

While it is an adult’s responsibility to convey correct information and protect the health of the children, hopefully this comic can be used to encourage an open dialog among families to teach children the proper etiquette to prevent an outbreak.

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Children reading the comic

 

Peace Winds will continue to work hard to help vulnerable communities. We look forward to your continued support.

*This project is funded with subsidies from the Japan Platform and donations from individuals and companies