In times of hardship, uncertainty and fear, community is more important than ever. Globally, 2020 has been a difficult year with the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way we work and live. The closure of markets in the informal sector, a source of income for many Zimbabweans, weakened the resilience of many communities as they no longer had a source of income. Informal markets were forced to shut down during the national lockdown in March to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A key question that has come up during the pandemic is, “How can communities prepare better to deal with similar shocks in future?” Part of the answer to this question lies in the communities themselves.
One such community project is the United Nations Volunteers (UNVs) community volunteers program. With support from the UNDP Urban Resilience Project, Youth Connekt Zimbabwe, CARE International, Oxfam and DanChurch Aid, community UNVs are raising awareness on COVID-19 in Mutare, Harare and Bulawayo.
In Mutare, CARE has collaborated with Youth Connekt by deploying community volunteers to raise awareness on the virus in the city’s high-density areas. The volunteers are also training various groups to be active participants in disseminating information in the markets. Topics covered in the training sessions have included vendor registration; COVID-19 protective measures; safer use of markets; Gender- Based Violence; and ways to improve the food supply chain by implementing delivery schedules of goods. By December 2020, UNVs in Mutare had reached over 200 people with door to door community awareness activities; 280 through marketplace awareness activities; and empowered 65 vendors with information on COVID-19 and the food supply chain through training sessions.
The participation of local authorities has been essential in the execution of this programme. Representatives from the City of Mutare have provided support through the administration, management, regulation and monitoring of market food supply systems.
In Harare, Oxfam and UNV have been conducting cash for activities in addition to the COVID-19 awareness campaigns. Young people from communities in Mbare, Glen View and Budiriro have been trained on decontamination activities and are being paid for the work done.
“The youth have an important role to play in the fight against COVID-19 and the projects they are working on are providing them with an income to support their livelihoods during the pandemic. As a volunteer, I will encourage more of my peers to take part in such projects” - Verina, UNV, Gender and Youth department at Oxfam and covering Glen View, Budiriro and Mbare marketplaces
Decontamination activities in Mbare are ongoing and as the country’s largest market, COVID-19 outreach activities are expected to reach 5000 individuals by the end of the year.
Through interaction with communities, UNVs and its partners have been able to receive feedback on key issues faced and lessons learnt during the ongoing pandemic. By documenting these activities and experiences, partners and local authorities can work together to enhance the fight againist COVID-19 which continues to affect our communities.