The approach that World Vision’s Multispectral Response Against Covid (MRAC) is using has been directly linked with the increased number of Covid-19 vaccinations administered around the National Capital District.
Since May 2022, MRAC has trained 40 Community Leaders to support NCD Provincial Health Authority’s (NCD PHA) Vaccination Cluster and Risk Communication Community Engagement Activities.
NCD Provincial Health Authority has been tasked with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine since the outbreak of the disease in PNG in 2020. Team lead for the COVID-19 Vaccine, Janet Pongone stated that because of the rumours surrounding the vaccine, health workers and trained volunteers had difficulties doing awareness in communities.
“We never go out to the communities to give vaccines until World Vision came on board with the community leaders approach”, said, Janet Pongone, Team Lead COVID-19 Vaccine, NCD Provincial Health Authority.
“We had a lot of security issues so the mobile vaccination team was only able to set up at the pop-up sites,” said Janet.
Motu Koita Assembly partners with the NCD Provincial Health Authority in providing mobile vaccination clinics in the community. Pipi Clowes, Vaccination Team Lead for Motu Koita Assembly also stated that in the beginning there was so much resistance in the communities.
“Our teams were stoned and even had bush knives shown to them when they went out to communities to roll out the Covid-19 vaccination,” Pipi stated.
This was the case until the MRAC came in. MRAC is an Australian Government funded project implemented by World Vision, Save the Children, Susu Mamas, and Burnet Institute. The project aims to support the Government of Papua New Guinea’s response to the COVID-19 surge in cases while simultaneously supporting the implementation of the National Vaccination Roll-Out Plan.
World Vision’s MRAC is partnering with Provincial Health Authorities in NCD, Madang, Morobe, and Western Provinces. While other implementing partners; Susu Mamas, Burnet Institute and Save the Children work in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, East Sepik, Eastern Highlands, and Western Highlands respectively.
World Vision through the MRAC project supports the National Vaccine Roll-Out Plan through various means, and one of them is by supporting Community Leaders around the National Capital District to carry out COVID-19 awareness in their respective communities.
Lohia Hitolo is a trained Community Leader from Ele Vala Village in Hanuabada. She has been working with World Vision since the start of the program in May 2022 and has seen a lot of change in her community.
“Before it used to be 5 or 6 people going for vaccination, after my community awareness the past months I went to the vaccination site at Gabi and counted about 27 people. This was mainly because of the house-to-house awareness that I conducted.” Lohia stated.
Lohia’s story is similar to Peter Kaivare’s. Peter is a Community Leader in Zone 5 of Joyce Bay Settlement. Peter said that his community was totally against the vaccine. Until he started creating awareness around the topic last month.
“People in my community did not believe anything about the COVID-19 vaccine, there were rumours of it being associated with 666 and the devil, there were also the rumours of a chip being put into your arm when you get vaccinated. No one in the community would accept awareness of the vaccine.
People chased away anyone who came from outside the community to talk about the vaccine. But when I started going around doing awareness on the vaccine, because I was a known member of the community, people started listening as they trusted me. During the first week, I had a lot of community members showing interest,” Peter proudly stated.
The success of the vaccination in the communities that were considered dangerous is owed to leaders in the community like Peter and Lohia. They have been faced with a lot of resistance but because they are trusted members of the community, there has been positive feedback and vaccination rates have increased.
Mary (name withheld) is a member of the community in Sabama. She was one of the many who believe in the negative rumours about covid-19. Since the community leaders started going around in her community she was convinced and decided to receive the vaccine.
“I was scared and didn’t want to receive the vaccine, when the community leaders came around to do the vaccine I was still not convinced, it took a while for me to understand what the vaccine was and since I knew the community leaders, it was easy for me to ask them questions. Now I know that the vaccine will protect you from getting the virus.” Mary stated.
The team Lead for Covid-19 Vaccination at the NCD Provincial Health Authority stated that they were able to reach over 50 per cent of their targets set by the Health Department because of the assistance received by World Vision and the donors.
“We are well over 118 000 people which is more than 50 per cent of our set target of 184 000. The community leaders’ approach has helped us to get into communities that were difficult to reach NCD,” Janet stated.
According to World Vision’s monitoring and evaluation data from February to June 2022, the MRAC project has reached over 180, 000 men, women, and children in 9 provinces around Papua New Guinea.