The art of teaching uses many tools to successfully deliver messages, and in Mombasa, the Amref Health Africa training of trainer’s session for Community Health Volunteers employed a metaphor to help drive the HBCC point home. The choice of metaphor couldn’t have been more apt “Mom’s Magic Hands” (MMH). Mothers are our primary teachers and custodians of the home and through this and the many things that mums do the training session hoped to drive behavior change through mum’s behaviour.
Originally developed by Unilever and adapted by implementing organizations across the world including Oxfam, the Mum’s Magic Hands approach is designed to encourage hand washing with soap at key times to prevent the spread of diseases in affected communities. The sensitization approach encourages identification and addressing of barriers to hand washing and social practices in the COVID-19 emergency contexts, prompts commitment of mothers to observe the key practices, communicates short and long-term benefits and rewards of desired behavior including a successful future for the children, demonstrates how-to do key preventative practices and inspires installation of infrastructure like handwashing points in households and communal to facilitate desired behaviors. The mothers in turn are not only expected to practice these, but also to cascade these to their household members.
Its success is based on tapping into motivators of human behavior primarily nurture and affiliation; the former is about doing the best for your children, helping them to develop, rewarding them, and teaching them while the latter is centered on being part of a community, the desire to fit in or belong. All these are then captured in a storyboard which describes how mothers’ hands can shape the lives of their children. It demonstrate to mothers of the power in their hands to grow and mature generations through simple acts as handwashing and key social practices in the context of COVID-19 like wearing of masks and socializing at a distance.
With this in mind, the Amref HBCC team used MMH to train trainers as part of the continuous efforts to reinforce behavior change in the bid to prevent and control spread of infections at community level. The rationale here is aimed at empowering and equipping the Community Health Volunteers with proper skills, information and tools to enable them trickle down the same information among the communities they live in.
The decision to conduct a training of trainers’ session is very deliberate. It allows for Amref and its partners realize critical mass faster and easier with messages that are scaled, localized and infused with local knowledge and nuances. The trainers are able to cascade their knowledge downwards to community health volunteers of targeted community units who given that they belong to these communities, are not only imparting knowledge; by practicing and actively practicing, but also are living the solution within the same communities giving their constituents reason to believe.
According to Rogers Moraro, a Social and Behavior Change officer at Amref, the main reason they adopted this route is “the community health structure has been the primary point of contact for reaching grass root communities on health issues. “It is thus imperative that this first line of defense is well trained and empowered that every community gets to know the preventative interventions individuals need to adhere to and their significance in cutting the transmission cycle” said Moraro.
Indeed reaching communities through CHV’s is not new; they have been used to drive behaviour change programs around HIV, Malaria, and TB thus making it easy to transition them to COVID-19. Further the fact that they belong to these communities, they are considered a credible, relatable and trusted source to deliver some of these messages
What content was being delivered?
In the wake of COVID-19, hand washing emerged as one of the key interventions in preventing the spread of infections. During this period our hands, and in the case of families and households mothers hands when used well are a tool of success for their children and families and on the contrast if not used well can be injurious.
This thus brings to life the “Magical “element of mother’s hands. They nurture, teach, reprimand, clean and thus the MMH is interactively built on these numerous abilities to teach the CHV’s on the roles mothers and indeed fathers and caregivers are to play in managing this pandemic.
The facilitators for the trainers of trainers (ToTs), Rogers Moraro and Moses Lengewa used a set of training kits to deliver the content tailored for CHV’s use while training at the community level on Mums Magic hands. The storyboard kit reaffirms hand washing with water and soap, wearing of masks, keeping physical distance of at least 1.5m, cough/respiratory etiquette and recognition of symptoms & taking corrective actions. Additionally, how to use the key behaviour posters to cue actions was also emphasized to ensure that house hold members are involved by the respective CHVs who will be distributing behaviour nudge posters to households.
Indeed as we grapple with the pandemic, numerous disruptions to daily life have been experienced. MMH acknowledges that emergency situations, communities are faced with environments which are different from those they are used to. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities may be inadequate and the practice of hygiene may be varied. So, MMH seeks to understand the context, and to assess whether hand washing and other key hygiene activities are being practiced, and if not, what barriers and enablers exist to ensure good practice and to maintain these practices, more so, in the prevention and control of the current COVID-19 pandemic among other prevalent infections such as diarrhea and pneumonia.
A total of 1,200 community health volunteers in Mombasa and Kwale counties are expected to be reached by the training through the 18 trainers of trainees trained. Thus far COVID-19 infection numbers are on the rise, fatigue and carelessness have crept in and as such community members have gone back to the normal ways of doing things amid the spread of the disease. There is therefore need to sustain the COVID-19 prevention and control measures through innovative behavior change approaches like Mum’s Magic Hands that appeal to mums and other caregivers to go the extra mile in ensuring their households remain cognizant of and apply the said interventions in order to keep their households safe.