When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, activities around the world were paused, including those planned for the elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Now, with risk mitigation plans in place, USAID’s Act to End NTDs | East program continues to support countries to resume NTD activities. While supporting the government of Cross River State, Nigeria to plan for resumption of NTD treatment campaigns amidst COVID-19, many questions began to arise: How would communities respond? What concerns might they have, given the ongoing pandemic? Rather than guess at the answers, we decided to do some listening.
NTD programs have always been community-led at their core—driven by a cadre of health volunteers, families, religious leaders, elders, and community members—with the support of government and partners. As such, we knew it was critical to understand perceptions and concerns regarding COVID-19 safety precautions and motivations to accept annual NTD treatment. What additional information should be provided before, during, and after the treatment campaign to gain and retain trust? To better understand the needs of the communities, the Act to End NTDs |East program supported listening sessions in Cross River State, two weeks before the treatment campaign was expected to begin. These focus group discussions gathered adults and youth from both urban and rural areas of two districts, namely Ogoja and Akamkpa.