The World Health Organization in Ethiopia, in collaboration with regional health bureaus, has launched a national campaign themed ‘choose life, wear a mask’, and ‘frequent hand-washing saves lives’ encouraging communities to wear masks and clean their hands as a health habit. The first billboard was installed in Addis Ababa on April 22, 2021 in the presence of Deputy Head of Addis Ababa Regional Health Bureau Dr Mulugeta Endale, and WHO Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) Lead Dr Aggrey Bategereza.
“Currently, COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country are on the rise and such efforts are timely to promote those basic COVID-19 prevention measures to reduce the spread of diseases,” Dr Mulugeta Endale said. Public adherence to these simple but effective preventive measures has declined in recent months.
Key messages for the billboards were developed by WHO and health bureaus in Amharic and English and translated and adapted into different Ethiopian languages. WHO will also support the installation of 100 billboards in all the nine regions and two city administrations across the country.
The billboard in Addis Ababa was installed near the Bole International Airport – one of the busiest international airports in Africa – to catch the attention of departing and arriving international and local travelers. The billboards in other cities and towns across the country will be installed on similar entry and exit points, market places and other locations identified as high risk or busy areas.
The main reason behind the current increase of COVID-19 cases is the low level of adherence to simple prevention methods such as physical distancing, consistent and correct use of masks and hand hygiene. At the time of drafting of this piece, more than 259,000 people had contracted the disease, close to 203,000 had recovered, and 3,772 had died.
To reverse the alarmingly poor compliance of the public to COVID-19 prevention methods, the Government of Ethiopia issued strict social measures only three weeks prior to installation of the first billboard. The new measures will penalize anyone that does not wear masks in public with penalties of up to three years imprisonment for such a violation. The campaign will be an additional reminder calling on the Ethiopian public to be in charge of their own health.