By Sarjo Camara-Singateh
The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) with Malaria Consortium members like Catholic Relief Services, are conducting two days Behavioral Change Communication message development ahead of the full implementation of the Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) which target aged between 3 to 59 months. The workshop is currently taking place at the Sheraton Spa along the AU Highway from the 3 to 4 June 2015. The project, currently operational in Central and Upper River Regions, is preparing to commence distribution of SMC drugs to 90,244 children aged between 3 to 59 months.
The acting Chief Public Health Officer, who deputised the Health Minister, said Information, Education, Communication or Behavioural Change Communication are both key to message development for communities. He emphasised the support of the government to any development partner.
The NMCP Programme Manager said the SMC campaign will be conducted monthly for four months beginning in August and ending in November. He noted that prior to the campaign, the NMCP and CRS will conduct a series of sensitisation and training activities to create awareness as well as build the capacity of health workers who will be involved in the campaign. This, he added, is to ensure that the required knowledge and skills is acquired so that the impact of SMC in The Gambia is maximised.
According to Fara Ndiaye, a communication specialist at Speak Up Africa, the objective of this national message development is for the NMCP and CRS to work with her organisation using community-based communication techniques and other local channels to maximise the impact on the population at the start of the intervention. He added that this will allow beneficiaries to fully understand it’s importance and effectiveness.
For her part, Dr. Shamila Jah of the World Health Organisation Country Office said communication is a critical component in advocacy work. “This is a proper intervention as the country is heading for the pre-elimination of malaria in 2018,” she noted.
Mr.Madi Jobarteh of Tango, who also doubles as the Chairperson of the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) of Global Fund, urged the participants to carefully look at the messages to make them clear and simple for the general public. He underscored the importance of behavioral change communication in the campaign against Malaria.
Ms Huja Jah, the Project Manager Access SMC at CRS, said this is a three year project covering Gambia, Mali, Niger and Benin. She noted that they have another partner in the area of advocacy and that is Speak Up Africa.