Social distance is an important aspect of the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic. But it also challenges the flow of key information at a time when being well-aware is also important for public health.
Where bicycles and rickshaws come as an issue.
In Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee camp, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) continues to explore new ways to bring key messages to Rohingya and members of the host community across the district. Initiatives such as messaging through rickshaws and IOM’s interactive voice response system are taking huge steps to ensure that the public is kept informed.
However, gaps continue where phone and road access are limited.
To increase key messaging and guarantee that no one is left without access to lifesaving knowledge, IOM’s Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) unit in Cox’s Bazar began distributing information throughout the Rohingya settlements by bicycle.
In line with the 2030 Agenda and the UN “green recovery” recommendations to encourage a culture of cycling, IOM is helping Rohingya participants to use bicycles secured and painted locally to ride throughout pre-identified sections of the camp. The cyclists use megaphones to deliver pre-recorded messages to each region.
The action is totally conducted by Rohingya refugees, for Rohingya refugees, and has previously reached nearly 67,000 beneficiaries across the Rohingya camp. Scaled-up messaging will continue as COVID-19 numbers rise. As of 10 June 2020, 37 Rohingya refugees had tested positive for the virus.
Message content varies from key COVID-19 information to general mental health and psychosocial support information and is recorded in English, Rohingya, and Bangla with support from Bengal Creative Media and Translators Without Borders.
The messages are stored on USB drives, so that knowledge may be easily modified to varying conditions where restrictions limit vehicle movement throughout the camp.
While rickshaw messaging follows a similar approach, the Rohingya cyclist initiative provides alternative communication that is environmentally friendly and contributes to the health and livelihood of local cyclists. The initiative also increases economic sustainability, as the total cost of one bicycle is comparable to a four-day rickshaw rental fee.