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If you were in Mbabane on Saturday the 30th May 2020 and heard loud repetitive noise form the CBD. Don’t be startled, those were loudhailers used by members of the COVID-19 social mobilisation and public awareness campaign. They were sending COVID-19 messages to the publics.

On this day, the curtain came down on the first leg of the campaign in the Hhohho region. The event was two pronged, started with a short but informative walk in the city centre and a grand closing at the Mbabane Market place. The participants came from different stakeholders involved in the campaign. These include UN agencies, Government Ministries, Parastatals, civil society organisations and members of the Royal Eswatini Police Services. Hhohho Regional Administrator Princess Tsandzile, UN Resident Coordinator Ms. Nathalie Ndongo-Seh, and UNFPA Acting Head of Office Ms. Margaret Thwala-Tembe were among notable attendees.

Launched by the Deputy Prime Minister on the 11th of May, the campaign ran concurrently in the Manzini and Hhohho regions. It is a collaborative initiative involving UN agencies, Government and civil society organisations under CANGO. The UN’s support included vehicles rentals, loudhailers, training of volunteers as well as the purchase of 10 000 masks form UNFPA, among other things.

The Hhohho region has the second largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. This is where the country’s capital town and UN offices are based. Despite the high numbers, it has been noted that since start on the campaign, mid-May, numbers have been dropping. Hhohho recorded about 17 new cases while Manzini had over 60 in the period.

The UNRC shared briefly on the campaign, especially its goal.

“It’s been a pleasure for UN to join hands with all the partners in this campaign. We achieved what we planned to do; going door-to-door reaching out to each of the citizen about the pandemic. With that information, you can now protect yourself, family, community and the whole nation.”

NEW NORMAL: Wearing of masks has become a standard procedure for getting services in town. 

Although the campaign was coming to an end in the Hhohho region, Ms Ndongo-Seh ensured the country on UN’s commitment to supporting the country’s efforts to fight the pandemic.

The Regional Administrator warned against being misled by the good results and urged the people to continue taking precautions and further handed a batch of re-useable masks to vendors in the Mbabane market. Municipal Council of Mbabane Mayor stated that the campaign contributed greatly towards the city’s ongoing efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Constable Khulani Mamba of the Campaign's Compliance team, reminded the attendees on the importance of staying home despite the eased lockdown. He also shared some observations made during the walk including wearing of masks, social distancing in queues, availability of sanitisers in shops and public transport. Mamba said,

“It’s not business as usual as most people assume. People must continue to adhere to the stipulated regulations of the lockdown as failure to do so may attract some penalties. Alcohol sale and consumption as well as sporting activities remain banned.” 

During the walk, an energetic voice of a member of REPS heard through the loudhailer, kept reminding the people about the campaign message, “Stay home to protect yourself and family. If you leave, wear a mask.”

The walk targeted the busy areas of the city, with the New Mall being the starting point. As this phase of the lockdown allows some businesses to operate on special days like Saturdays, places like the New Mall, Corporate place and Plaza, were filled with scores of people. These people, in queues leading to shops or heading towards the bus rank, received pamphlets with COVID-19 messages from the campaign team.

As the mandate is leaving no one behind, the campaign reached every society member. As the team entered the Corporate Place building, two ladies on crutches joined. They played their part in raising the voice of people with disabilities. The team also made a pit stop by Shoprite; a spot for a group of visually impaired people, popularly known for their mesmerizing fine tunes. In adopting to the new normal presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, this group now sings while clad on their masks.