Summary of a discussion: Community health and COVID-19 in Togo: what lessons learned?

| December 21, 2022

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As part of our COVID-19 vaccine confidence campaign, we engaged our network of radio partners in WhatsApp discussions about COVID-19, the vaccine, and—in Togo—the community health system. From Sept.19 to 23, we invited Dr. Abravi Emefa Sabli, frontline field epidemiologist and general practitioner (FETP Frontline) and Chief Medical Officer of Agoè Nyive 4 commune (CMS TOGBLEKOPE), who is often a COVID-19 resource person for radio and television broadcasts in Togo. This discussion was held with our 221 members of the Farm Radio Togo WhatsApp group about the lessons learned in the context of COVID-19 and the impacts of the pandemic on Togo’s community health systems.

During the five-day discussion, several questions occupied the participants. The first day was devoted to understanding terms such as: community health, pandemic, epidemic. 

For Dr. SABLI, community health is “the process by which the members of a community, geographical or social, reflect together on the problems of their health, express their needs and priorities and participate actively in the establishment, development, and evaluation of the activities most likely to respond to these priorities.” 

Two essential points were at the heart of the online discussion: the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on Togo’s health system and the good practices in Togo’s national response and the role of rural radio stations and broadcasters in health crises.

On the first point, Dr. SABLI pointed out that the pandemic has posed several challenges for the Togolese health system, which can be captured in three points. First, there was the challenge of training community health workers on the steps to be taken to contain and stop the spread of the virus. The second challenge was logistics; it was essential to provide the various organizations responding to the pandemic with the necessary working tools. And the last challenge was the communication strategies specific to the pandemic.Broadcasters underlined the great availability of community health agents to appear live on air. Their expertise made it possible to tell listeners about how to keep safe during the pandemic, as well as when and how to get vaccinated. 

On the second point, broadcasters emphasized the central role of community radio stations for effective health communication. Dr. SABLI urged the women and men in Togolese media to continue to share accurate and up-to-date health information on air. The majority of broadcasters stressed the importance of supporting radio stations for more effective communication.

It is important to note that radio has been a decisive tool  during the pandemic to keep rural communities safe. Continuing to build the capacity of broadcasters is an essential investment moving forward, especially as health crises continue and worsen.