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7 Considerations for COVID-19 Risk Communication in Remote Rural Communities

A district health director records a message about covid-19. Wa West, Ghana

Community radio, digital tools, and community mobilization approaches to COVID-19 response

Last week, the World Bank’s Community-Driven Development team consulted Amplio senior program manager Ryan Forbes Morris on ideas and communication strategies for a COVID-19 response in remote rural areas that lack reliable electricity, mobile networks, or internet connectivity.

Here are some considerations Morris recommends to strengthen community health outreach, prevent the spread of infection, and address emerging public health issues that may impact vulnerable populations in rural areas.

1. Leverage existing communication channels

Work with community radio partners and local experts to create and disseminate content. Use existing health hotlines or SMS or IVR channels to answer questions and get your message out.

2. Partner to align COVID-19 response key messages

If you’re planning to create and disseminate content as part of your COVID-19 response, partner with other organizations, government ministries, and local influencers that are working in the same communities — such as district health directors, assemblymen, queen mothers, and traditional and religious leaders — to align your messages. Make sure key messages are accurate and consistent so that people don’t get confused.

Endorsement messages from community leaders like assemblyman Alhassan Yakubu helped strengthen a UNICEF communication for development (C4D) Talking Book project in Karaga District, Northern Region, Ghana.

3. Identify and promote credible sources

There’s a lot of information (and misinformation) going around, so it’s important to connect people with credible sources. Community media outlets also can have trouble accessing credible sources to inform their content production.

To address this challenge, UNICEF Ghana worked with the Government of Ghana and the private sector to develop the Agoo mobile platform to educate people about cholera and ebola outbreaks. The World Health Organization (WHO) is now sending COVID-19 messages through WhatsApp. These are two examples of credible sources of information available on widespread platforms. 

4. Create community feedback loops

There are various ways to create feedback loops between communities, stakeholders, and service providers. This will assure that your interventions are relevant to the people that you’re trying to serve. If you’re working with local media outlets for COVID-19 response,  call-in shows and live debates are a great way to engage the community and elevate people’s voices. Health and agriculture sector stakeholders and decision-makers could participate to address questions and concerns faced by listeners.

SMS logs or hotline-based interventions can be used to monitor target community challenges and successes. The Amplio Talking Book's user feedback function allows community members to record their questions, ideas, and experiences, providing a rich source of qualitative data to help program staff identify and address emerging trends and challenges in target communities.

Note: A new processing system makes it easier to sample, analyze, and tag Talking Book user feedback and send it to Amplio's dashboard as quantitative data. January 2022

5. Go the extra mile to reach vulnerable populations

Think about what you might do differently to reach and address the challenges of some of those most vulnerable demographics, including women, children, people with disabilities, etc. For example, how will you reach those who aren’t able to access the internet or a mobile phone, including women? What about those who can’t read?

A community health volunteer records a community member's question onto a Talking Book during a mothers' group in Samburu County, Kenya.

6. Link community media and district health experts

Community radios have the trust of their communities and can develop culturally appropriate messaging in local languages. Encourage more information sharing and collaboration between community radio journalists and district-level health and agriculture experts. This will align messaging around prevention and access to essential services. Furthermore, sharing information can collectively create solutions to address barriers and challenges faced by community members. 

7. Develop a long-term approach to strengthen community health systems

Think about long-term approaches for knowledge sharing and prevention strategies at the community level. Contact Amplio to set up a free consultation on how to incorporate Talking Books into a new or existing community health program. Learn how Talking Books can be paired with other interventions and communications channels to maximize your impact. Amplio’s technology makes it easy to update Talking Books in the field and add messages that cover emerging issues, like COVID-19, and collect usage data and user feedback.


Ryan Forbes Morris is an international development professional with more than 10 years of experience leading communication for development (C4D) projects. As Senior Program Manager at Amplio, Ryan leads business development and consults on Talking Book program design and C4D strategies. Connect with Ryan on LinkedIn.


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