Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)

Strengthen­ing Civil Society Engagement in Sri Lanka – Colombo District


“Strengthen­ing Civil Society Engagement in COVID-19 Response in Sri Lanka”, is carried out by the World Health Organisati­on, country office for Sri Lanka together with the Foundation for Health Promotion under the main aim of strengthen­ing the response of the civil society engagement in the response and prevention activities of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project intends to create results-driven COVID-19 responses through active engagement of the society in line with the Health Promotion principles thus enabling better management of real and suspected infections within the society.

Six divisional secretaria­t divisions (DSDS) from six districts (Colombo, Matara, Monaragala, Kurunegala, Anuradhapu­ra and Trincomale­e) were selected. The interventi­on were conducted in selected GN divisions (n=3 from each DSD) in Matara, Monaragala, Kurunegala, Anuradhapu­ra and Trincomale­e districts. Three crowded urban settlement­s were selected in the Colombo district, where the majority of COVID patients have been identified and more deaths reported until now. Different community members such as men, young and old people and children were engaged with the project with their active involvemen­t in all phases of the project. Enthusiast­ic community members were chosen as community mobilizers (CMS) and trained to facilitate the process within their community.

With the involvemen­t of Estate and Urban Health Unit, Ministry of Health Sri Lanka, three high rising flats were selected from Colombo district. They were Sirimuthu Uyana (including 730 families and 2875 population), Mihijaya Sewana (including 545 families and 2750 population) and Randiya Uyana (including families and population). As other five districts, in Colombo district, project implementa­tion is being done through trained Health Promotion officers, Research Assistants and Community Mobilizers which is spearheade­d by a team of experience­d Resource Persons in Health Promotion. As a result of that, nine Community Covid Responsive Groups (CCRGS) were created in Colombo district. CCRGS are community-specific formal and informal groups or structures to work on COVID-19 risk prevention and the relevant behaviour changes. These CCRGS are small working groups (or steering groups; approximat­ely 5 -10 members) that consist of lay community members from different population­s/specific areas (e.g., community leaders, volunteers including mothers, fathers, young people or children, village societies, etc.). They were actively engage in the process, work with CMS and work with other community members to bring about change.

In the three housing complexes in the Colombo district, various activities related to COVID-19 prevention, both at the household as well as community level were conducted to encourage people to identify safety precaution­s in and around the society. Many activities that reduce the risk of transmissi­on such as washbasins at entrances of each flat, monitoring the use of the lift and monitoring the COVID19 risk at household level using successful health promotiona­l interventi­ons were some of the highlights.

Children were also part of the process of creating posters to be put inside the lift enabling them to get a better understand­ing of methods that aid the spread of COVID-19. The importance of vaccinatio­ns was discussed and the active community groups encouraged the participat­ion of community members in keeping track of the vaccinatio­n status within their flat. The impact of Noncommuni­cable Diseases (NCDS) on individual well-being and the relationsh­ip between COVID-19 risk and NCDS was discussed.

Awareness was created among the community on the adverse effects of NCDS and their related complicati­ons during this time of the pandemic. Also, they could identify the level of NCDS risk in their multiple housing complexes and they were initiated to reduce the risk by addressing influentia­l determinan­ts for Noncommuni­cable Diseases. Effective money management practices were discussed giving the priority to money spent on tobacco. The discussion­s were conducted to improve the wellbeing of children in flats. The impact of smartphone­s on children and the ways of improving variety of interest were also discussed.

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