The Implementation of a Community-Based Hand Washing Initiative to Slow the Spread of COVID-19 in Cameroon
Background: With an armed conflict prevailing in the Northwest and Southwest regions since 2016, Cameroon faces significant challenges of limited medical attention and insufficient availability of health services. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall vulnerability to disease is therefore increased. The WHO has emphasized several measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as hand washing with soap and water. However, the dissemination and quality of health information within Africa has historically been ineffective. Such information is not easily accessible and recommended health measures are not always implemented. In efforts to promote the dissemination of health information and recommended health guidelines for COVID-19 in Cameroon, we implemented a community-based health initiative surrounding hand washing. Methods: We simultaneously distributed soap and disseminated public health guidelines on COVID-19 to various neighborhoods in Cameroon, within the cities of Bamenda and Yaoundé. Dissemination of information within each neighborhood was coordinated with assistance of community leaders. COVID-19 information was shared in many forms including verbal communication and physical demonstrations of how to properly wash hands. Results: Between March 2020 and August 2020, 13 soap distributions were carried out in five neighborhoods. Overall, we reached an estimate of 1247 households, 5300 people and delivered approximately 3390 units of soap throughout the distributions. A lack of awareness on COVID-19 precautions was observed within the communities visited. In addition, many people lacked access to soap, making it difficult to follow public health guidelines to practice hand washing. Conclusion: Our work supports previous studies that highlight the importance of community leaders in community-based initiatives and provides new insights in light of the current pandemic.
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