Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kenya, in March 2020, Africa’s Voices Foundation (AVF) implemented its innovative interactive radio modality for simultaneous awareness-raising and feedback collection. Using interactive radio dialogues, AVF aimed to contribute towards the achievement of World Vision Kenya’s (WVK) Emergency Response in Kitui and Makueni counties project (July-December 2020).
Specifically, AVF deployed its interactive radio methodology to understand the knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to COVID-19 among community members in Kitui and Makueni counties at the beginning and end of the project as well as to contribute to WVK’s evaluation of the effectiveness of its support to community members.
To do so, AVF deployed the Common Social Accountability Platform (CSAP) in Kitui and Makueni, using interactive radio as a space for citizen feedback. Social accountability refers to a form of civic engagement that builds accountability through the collective efforts of citizens and civil society organizations to hold public officials, service providers, and governments to account for their obligations with responsive efforts.
World Vision Kenya and AVF focused the first episode of the radio consultation on understanding how citizens were responding to the COVID-19 crisis and the impact it was having on their lives. The show was broadcasted on the vernacular radio station, Musyi FM with a considerable listenership in the targeted region. The show’s advert aired three days prior to the show, to encourage and invite listeners to share their opinions via SMS to the free shortcode. Each message received in response was followed by a request for consent to use the data for analysis and a request for additional demographic information. A similar approach was adopted for episodes two and three of the radio shows, also aired on Musyi FM. Specifically, the first episode asked, “What are you doing to protect yourself and family?”. The second episode asked “How has your source of income been affected by COVID-19?” And, finally, the third episode asked, “What is your opinion on the Impact of COVID-19 on education, especially with schools reopening?”
Across the three episodes, over 1200 participants sent over 2300 messages. A total of 1008 participants consented for their messages (totaling 1839 messages) to be included in the analysis.
The project also undertook a series of Listening Groups, whereby a total of 105 participants listened to the live AVF interactive radio shows on Musyi FM on week 2 and 3 of programming. These participants, disaggregated into 7 groups (4 in Kitui County, 3 in Makueni County) composed of 15 members each, were assisted by a local facilitator, recruited and trained by AVF officers. The facilitators were balanced in terms of gender and recruited from the communities by WVK and AVF, which enabled ownership of the discussions.
In the first episode, aired in July 2020, participants in Makueni and Kitui demonstrated some awareness of coronavirus, including knowledge on how to prevent transmission. However, some participants indicated a lack of basic understanding about what the virus is, how it is spread, and the necessary preventative measures. Participants also indicated a lack of access to basic preventative equipment such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitiser.
In episodes 2 and 3, aired in November 2020, it became clear that people in Makueni and Kitui have faced serious economic consequences from the pandemic, with examples of participants losing their jobs, struggling to get enough food or to pay rent. This impact across the board has also affected the existing resilience and self-help structures in the community such as table-banking and chamas. Measures for basic income and livelihood support that can allow people to meet the essential needs of access to food, rent, health, and education remain important and need to be scaled up.
Participants also spoke on the impact on domestic tensions and violence, and also talked of negative behaviours among children and adolescents as a result of the schools closure and overall instability.
Participants showed concern about the risk of COVID-19 spreading in schools when they reopen but there seems to be a stronger need for them to open as long as measures are taken to keep them safe. Participants were proactive in making recommendations on how they can be made safe but also had questions about measures and risks of schools not following guidelines. Conversations between schools and communities should be encouraged to ensure measures are taken and communicated to parents.
In November 2020, AVF deployed Kati-Kati, a one-to-one SMS platform, to determine the satisfaction of beneficiaries under various livelihood programmes implemented by World Vision Kenya in Kitui and Makueni Counties. The aim was to: (a) confirm the receipt and form of the assistance, (b) gauge the level of satisfaction, and (c)seek recommendations/views for new areas of intervention in Kitui and Makueni Counties. A total of 129 individual conversations were initiated by AVF to a group of 129 beneficiaries, 35 of the 129 conversations were established and sustained to a positive conclusion.
WVK beneficiaries who engaged in the 1-1 conversation conveyed appreciation for the assistance offered. Some described it as life-changing and requested its continuation, alluding to its positive impact, including leading a better life after receiving chicken, the ability to offset school fees for children, increased income from the sale of eggs, and improved health at the household level after consumption of eggs from the chicken donated.
There were also numerous appeals from parents for sustained and increased financial assistance towards education-related expenses emanating from challenges posed by COVID-19. Inaccessibility to both clean drinking water and farming water was cited by a number of respondents as a current and long-term need for residents in both Kitui and Makueni counties.
WVK should continue to focus attention on the impact of COVID-19 on people’s livelihoods and ability to access basic shelter, food, and health needs, as well as on sustained awareness campaigns to ensure that all citizens in Kitui and Makueni understand how to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. Finally, conversations between schools and communities should be encouraged to ensure COVID-19 protective measures are taken and communicated to parents.
Covid 19 imefanya nirudi chini vile silawahi,nalaa jaa,nyumba nadaiwa,watoto wanangojea kwenda shule,marafiki wa menitoroka sijui nianzie wapi.
COVID-19 has made my situation sink to a level I haven’t experienced before. I am sleeping hungry, haven’t paid my rent, my children’s school fees is still pending and I have lost friends.I don’t know where to begin.”