Using strategic communications to counter the imminent threat of COVID-19 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Newly Merged Districts

Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Informing and engaging mass public through traditional and social media channels.

The USAID-funded FATA Reforms Support Activity, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), aims to improve the civilian capability of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government to implement reforms to integrate the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) into KP, and help strengthen the citizens’ trust in the government. As part of the project, a Strategic Communications Unit (SCU) was established at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).  In February 2020, the SCU worked with government counterparts to develop a strategy to address COVID-19 in the province.

While analyzing the potential effects of COVID-19 in the province, the SCU observed how the disease was being politicized locally.  Such a lack of evidence-based messaging put the public at risk, tarnished people’s trust in their government’s ability to protect them against the fast spreading pandemic, and endangered an already fragile economy.

The SCU thus developed a communications strategy to mobilize and engage the public. The strategy emphasizes regular, accurate messaging through television, radio, social media, and face-to-face communication when safely possible.  The SCU developed key messages in partnership with the provincial health minister’s office, and worked with production firms from the private sector to design public service announcements.

The resulting products (Facebook Link 1, 2, and 3) were widely shared through the government’s various social media platforms and ensured that the first COVID-19 information that citizens from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa received was evidence-based. The SCU’s advocacy resulted in the government’s commitments to use its own resources alongside donor support to spread public health messages, helping  increase the sustainability of the messaging campaign.

“The Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa realizes that the war against COVID-19 will only be won if we win the public awareness challenge,” said Taimur Jhagra, Health Minister for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in a recent interview with Reuters.

Through USAID support, the Government of KP has put the right foot forward and set the stage for the provincial health department to capably lead the efforts against COVID-19.

With more than $8 million in new contributions, the United States is collaborating with the Government of Pakistan to help stop the spread of coronavirus nationwide and care for afflicted people.  All of these contributions were identified as top priority needs by Pakistani authorities, and they are fully paid by the American people.  Over the past 20 years, the United States has invested more than $18.4 billion in Pakistan, including $1.1 billion in health assistance.

Last updated: June 18, 2020

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