Voinjama, Lofa County — The Progressive Youth for Community Safety Initiative (PYCOSI) has launched a UNDP funded project to support COVID-19 preparedness in Voinjama and Zorzor cities, prompting applause and calls for the extension of the project to other parts of the county.
Report By: Gbotulu Mawolo in Voinjama, Lofa County
PYCOSI is a community-based NGO founded since 2017 that is dedicated to youth empowerment and community improvement.
Mr. Mohammed Kamara, PYCOSI Executive Director, says the project strictly focuses on creating awareness about the preventive measures of COVID-19 in the two cities, disclosing that the project will last for two months under the guidance and supervision of the Lofa County Health Team (LCHT).
“UNDP in partnership with the Government of Liberia (GOL) through the Ministry of Health (MOH) has awarded us this contract because of the need to keep reminding our people about the existence of the Coronavirus and how we can all prevent it from resurfacing in the county remains very cardinal,” he said while calling on residents to adhere to all the COVID-19 preventive measures.
“Let us keep washing our hands, using nose masks in crowded places, avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose regularly, always cough or sneeze in your bent elbow, avoid close contact with someone who is sick and so on.
“If you are having fever, cough, shortness of breath, please visit the clinic or hospital around you. You can also call the emergency hotline  for help.”
It can be recalled that Lofa County reentered “preparedness stage” on September 30, 2020 when the last patient was discharged from the treatment center.
According to Mr. Alpha Tamba, the County’s Surveillance Officer, the first confirmed case was reported May 20, 2020 and then the county went on to record a total of 45 confirmed cases, 11 deaths and 34 recoveries.
Out of the 45 confirmed cases, 25 were reported from Foya Statutory District, 10 from Zorzor District, 9 from Voinjama District and 1 from Kolahun District, he said.
“Before the first confirmed case was reported, the county was in her [preparedness stage]. When the first confirmed case was recorded, we entered [response stage], and now we are back to [preparedness stage],” he said, stressing the importance of being prepared for any situation adding that “this is the best time to continue following the precautionary measures of the Coronavirus pandemic.”
While extending compliments to PYCOSI and UNDP, Mr. Tamba also stressed the need for expanding the project to other parts of the county.
“Half is better than zero,” he said. “PYCOSI is doing well and many thanks to UNDP for the support, but we think there’s a need to have similar project extended to other parts of the county”.
As the implementation continues, PYCOSI has had series of radio talk-shows on community radio stations in Zorzor and Voinjama cities. The shows encourage listeners to keep following prescribed guidelines meant to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
On January 4, they ended a day-long meeting with over 100 community leaders including stakeholders in Zorzor and Voinjama to begin the awareness with community leaders who will further take the messages back to their various communities.
PYCOSI social mobilization team later led a street parade in Voinjama, playing COVID-19 preventive messages through songs, jingles and at the same distributing fliers with COVID-19 preventive tips.
Meanwhile, there are calls for the expansion of the campaign in other parts of the county with some residents saying that all residents need to be sensitized about COVID-19.
“COVID-19 didn’t only affect Voinjama and Zorzor cities,” says Joseph Tamba, a resident of Foya Statutory District, who called for the project to be expanded.
And Hawa Momoh, a resident of Kolahun District, hopes that “UNDP will empower PYCOSI to extend the project to the entire county.”
When asked about the capacity of PYCOSI to expand its activities, its Program Manager, Mr. Abdullah Koryon, disclosed that the local NGO has sufficient manpower but there are some challenges.
“This project is funded for Voinjama and Zorzor cities,” he said. “We hope for a bigger contract from our funders to cover the entire County.”
The County’s Health Promotion Focal Person, William Sherman praised the initiative, promising to work with the group to deliver the “rightful messages about COVID-19 to the general public”.