Youth, government and public health leaders, celebrities, and people across the continent united around the importance of mask wearing to slowing the pandemic.
During the last week of November, leaders and communities across Africa rallied around an important and critical idea: Keep masking. When we wear a mask, we are protecting our friends, our families, and our communities.
Africa Mask Week came at a critical time, when data showed COVID-19 cases on the rise, but adherence to masking and other behaviors known to stop the spread waning due to pandemic and prevention fatigue. Between November 23 and 30, 2020 the Pandemic Action Network, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the African Union Office of the Youth Envoy, the African Youth Front on Coronavirus, and Resolve to Save Lives organized the online campaign encouraging people across the African continent to wear masks and stem the spread of COVID-19. In the weeks since, the effort has sustained on social media and moved to offline fora and communities in 50 out of 54 African countries.
Over the span of two weeks:
- The campaign reached more than 299 million people with more than 187 million social media impressions and 112 million traditional media impressions across 106 countries.
- Preliminary results have shown an 18% increase in mask-wearing social posting activity compared to the previous period.
- During the campaign, “community” was the most popular term in social posts, while #AfricaYouthLead was a popular tag alongside #AfricaMaskWeek.
- The top post came from social media influencer Ihssane Benalluch, promoting mask wearing in English and Arabic.
This effort was driven by 75+ global, regional, national, and local partners via a social media partner toolkit with content in English, French, Arabic, Swahili, and Portuguese. Participating partners included Africa CDC, the AU Youth Envoy, Resolve to Save Lives, CORE Group, the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa (CAF-Africa), Gavi, Global Health Corps, Global Health Strategies, the Global Health Technologies Coalition, GOAL, Goodbye Malaria, HEA Sports, Jhpiego, Last Mile Health, MSH, ONE, PATH, the Rockefeller Foundation, Southern Africa Youth Forum, Sport Connect Africa, UNICEF, UNITE, USAID, VillageReach, WHO African Region, Weber Shandwick, the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum.
The campaign launched with an Africa CDC virtual launch discussion featuring Africa CDC Director Dr. John Nkengasong, AU Youth Envoy Aya Chebbi, and Pandemic Action Network Co-founder Gabrielle Fitzgerald, and has had 3.2K views to date.
At the launch of Africa Mask Week, Dr. Nkengasong articulated the challenge, “We may be tired. We may have prevention fatigue, but I can assure you the COVID-19 virus is not tired.” Until there are vaccines or medicines to fight COVID-19, wearing a mask is one of the best tools we have, especially when combined with physical distancing and hand washing.
But arguably the biggest success of this campaign has been its offline reach across local and regional communities, thanks to the many in-country health institutions and NGOs working at the community level to disseminate mask-wearing messaging. Groups like the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Amref Health Africa, Development Media International (DMI) and so many more have folded these messages into their public health communications and community engagement efforts, ensuring that the importance of ongoing mask-wearing is emphasized among a wider audience.
We are grateful to the energy and efforts of all of our partners, and look forward to seeing this momentum continue through the new year. When we work together and #WearAMask, we can help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.