Youth groups playing their part to boost COVID-19 vaccinations in DRC
Youth organisations in the DRC are doing their bit to change perspectives on vaccination.
28 September 2021 – by Victor Muisyo
Nearly a year and half since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, DRC’s organisations, societies and youth groups are rapidly finding new ways to tackle the crisis. When the epidemic was first reported in March 2020, there were doubts about its severity - some even questioned its existence. For a time, people’s fears were not properly addressed. Today, more information about the virus has become available, and vaccines are being rolled out with support from COVAX.
More than 2 million vaccine doses have now been delivered to the DRC through COVAX and, thanks to the efforts of PRODDIJE and others like them, the number of vaccinations is steadily growing by the day.
But many people have been reluctant to take the shot. This has been due in part to a mistrust of authorities and misguided assumptions based on rumours circulating on social media.
In response to this, organisations such as Promotion for the Defence of the Rights and Interests of Young People (PRODDIJE), are finding ways to stop the spread of misinformation. PRODDIJE has been reaching out to the country’s youth and encouraging them to get vaccinated.
The organisation’s coordinator, Jerry Kankala, previously called on young people to help seek solutions to challenges brought on by the pandemic. Speaking at an event to create awareness held in the DRC’s Gombe region of Kinshasa in April 2021, Kankala warned against misinformation, while at the same time encouraging the country’s youth to speak out against ignorance.
At the same event, Dr Nadine Bakari Saidi, a senior health official based in Kinshasa, reiterated the importance of COVID-19 restrictions and emphasised the need for more people to get vaccinated.
Awareness programmes such as these have proven to be effective. One report from a vaccination unit at Ngaliema Clinic in Kinshasa noted that Congolese were at first dismissive of the vaccine. As the third wave of infections was reported, health workers at the clinic noted that the uptake of COVID-19 jabs began to increase.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at the beginning of September 2021 a total of 111,142 vaccine doses had been administered in the DRC against an estimated population of more than 90 million. While the numbers are not ideal, efforts are underway to boost the rates of inoculation across the country.
More than 2 million vaccine doses have now been delivered to the DRC through COVAX and, thanks to the efforts of PRODDIJE and other groups like them, the number of vaccinations is steadily growing by the day.
Joseph Tsongo, founder and CEO at the Amani Institute, a youth training centre, has also been making moves to stem the spread of the virus. Based in the country’s North Kivu Province, he previously helped launch an initiative dubbed “Tupone Wote”, a Swahili phrase which translates to “Let Us Heal Together”.
Given that the region has faced turmoil in recent years due, in part, to political instability and armed militia movements, Tsongo has had to put in extra effort to educate local communities that have been hesitant in trusting authorities.
Tsonge’s movement initially reached out to communities though regularly aired radio programmes. Over time, several awareness campaigns were organised on the street. His movement has particularly targeted vulnerable communities across the region, like those who, having fled armed conflict, now make their homes in makeshift camps.
Tsongo’s more recent efforts are focused on campaigning for preventative measures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19. He has recruited young volunteers to help educate the masses by visiting markets, town squares and businesses in many parts of the region. The volunteers help create awareness by distributing pamphlets with information on how to stop the spread of the virus.
As COVAX starts accelerating deliveries, with more and more countries receiving more and more doses of vital vaccine, the DRC’s youth are also doing their part. Though their efforts encounter challenges, sustained determination, coupled with carefully targeted community-based initiatives will be the key to their success.