Local Leaders Mobilized to Fight against COVID-19 in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA – The UN migration agency says it is mobilizing its network of local community leaders to help with awareness and prevention activities designed to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by coronavirus, has reached 117 including three deaths.

Community conversation facilitators – who are key in crisis awareness raising and prevention of illegal migration – are now working to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for migrants, and other vulnerable communities, discloses International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Friday.

The Ethiopian government is placing movement restrictive measures at land borders as part of pandemic response, and few passenger flights are allowed in and out of the country.

It has also put a 14-day mandatory quarantine for those coming from abroad – a move, IOM said, has caught returning migrants off-guard.

The says, in recent days, over 8,000 migrants have returned to the country from the Gulf and other nearby countries – migrants who may have been at risk of exposure to the disease.

– Health Threats –

Ethiopia accounts for some of the continent’s largest migrant movements with tens of thousands of them travelling irregularly abroad often without access to healthcare or medical facilities along the way, heightening the risk.

They often live and travel in cramped conditions where social distancing is impossible.

The UN migration agency says, with its support, local leaders in rural areas where many migrants or those likely to want to migrate reside, are disseminating information on the heightened dangers of contracting the infection.

“While migrants face the same health threats from Covid-19 as host community members, they are at higher risk of poor health outcomes due to the difficult circumstances of their journey,” explains Malambo Moonga, the Head of Migration Management at IOM Ethiopia.

IOM Ethiopia is providing training on effectively communicating the dangers of COVID-19 in addition to promoting alternative livelihoods at home to deter migrants from wanting to make journeys that might expose them to the disease.

“Our community programs focus on raising awareness on natural and man-made problems and challenges,” said Girma Mulugeta, one of the members for the community conversation groups in the Southern Nations and Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR).

“We will be using these community programs to raise awareness about the current threat: the COVID-19 virus.”
Members involved in his network are health extension workers who have been providing lessons on the virus preventive measures, according to Girma.

“We are now getting ready to cascade that messages to the community at large,” he said.

Image: Ethiopian migrants walk on the side of a highway leading to the western Yemeni town of Haradh, on the border with Saudi Arabia. [Photo File/VOA]