When Covid-19 hit Africa, it was unclear whether the continent’s public health systems would be swiftly overwhelmed by a rapid rise in cases in densely populated urban areas with poor access to water and sanitation, where social distancing would be impossible to enforce.
It was clear that lockdowns would have a devastating economic impact in Africa, with Governments unable to finance the social safety net schemes required to ensure people could afford not to go out to work. A solution was required to enable people to continue working safely, without jeopardising their health or infecting others.
In Kenya, we formed a coalition of private sector and community-based organisations and mobilised rapidly to create a first line of defence for people to reduce their risk of infection. Safe Hands Kenya engaged local manufacturers to produce soap, surface disinfectant, handwashing stations and masks, used GIS mapping technology and multiple layers of national census data to geo-locate the communities most at risk and engaged distribution partners to ensure it reached those in greatest need.
Our premise was that the immediate provision of the tools for rapid mass sanitation, accompanied by a highly creative behaviour change campaign to motivate people to use them effectively, would be the most impactful way to keep people safe and society functioning.
We engaged the Government of Kenya, through the Ministry of Health, to secure buy-in for the coalition’s activities and ensure alignment with national policy and guidance. We designed a communications strategy and engaged media to raise the profile of the initiative and support fundraising efforts. We collaborated closely with the creative team on the behaviour change campaign to ensure the insights from the field teams informed the evolution of the messaging and engagement tactics and that we could measure effectiveness.
Safe Hands Kenya reached over 2 million at-risk Kenyans between March and June 2020, distributing over 87 tonnes of locally produced soap, 1500 locally manufactured handwashing stations, 500,000 locally manufactured masks and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces in public spaces in several of Nairobi’s most marginalised neighbourhoods. Our behaviour change campaign reached over 3 million people.
Additional chapters of Safe Hands were established in Ethiopia and Tanzania and we produced an open source operations manual to share our learnings around mobilising a purpose-built coalition in a time of crisis, to enable other organisations exploring similar initiatives to accelerate their speed to market and enhance their effectiveness.