“Come on Guatemala, get up, the world has changed, and we need to adapt. Let this new year not be of lament and remember never let your guard down.”
So closes a COVID-19 rap song, written and performed by Angelo Eduardo Isaac, a 24-year-old student and carpenter from San Marcos, Guatemala. Isaac’s song was selected as part of a national call for creative proposals from young people to help stem the tide of COVID-19 infections in Guatemala. The effort was coordinated by the Breakthrough ACTION project, led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs.
The main goal was to remind people not to let their guard down, that maintaining handwashing, physical distancing and mask wearing could keep them safe.
“The idea was to reach out to youth and enable them to develop creative messaging in their own words that resonates with them and encourages them to do their part,” says CCP’s Sean Maloney, a program officer with Breakthrough ACTION.
According to statistics gathered by Johns Hopkins University, in Guatemala, home to 16.6 million people, more than 355,000 cases have been reported since the pandemic began, with more than 10,000 people dying. Globally, more than 4.1 million people have died from COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has evolved since May 2020, and CCP’s COVID-19 response in Guatemala has nimbly responded to the shifting landscape to ensure that the national prevention campaigns resonate with Guatemalans every step of the way.
In the fall of 2020, the theme was Si Toca Salir, Toca Cuidarse (If you have to go out, you have to protect yourself). This nationwide multimedia TV, radio and social media campaign was to inform and encourage the population to adopt and properly practice key COVID-19 prevention behaviors if they had to leave their homes. Many Guatemalans live day-to-day and it’s impossible for them to just stay home. They need to go to work, and the campaign focused on how they could protect themselves when they left their homes
Around the winter holidays, the campaign became El COVID se aprovecha de las excusas, No Bajes la Guardia (COVID takes advantage of excuses. Don’t let your guard down).
“Telling people not to do what they need to do to survive would probably not be as effective as informing them how to protect themselves and their families as they go about their lives” Maloney says.
This spring, the theme was Seguirnos cuidando del COVID es responsabilidad de todos (Protecting us from COVID is everyone’s responsibility), highlighting that everyone has a role to be to reduce the spread of COVID. In April, a key message was about a national hotline people can call if they have COVID-19 questions.
In one community in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, the team developed a radio call-in show in the local language. The call-in show provided a space for the indigenous population to voice their questions and concerns about COVID-19, by inviting well-respected health authorities to respond. CCP also trained local community reporters to gather rumors, myths and concerns which were discussed or debunked live during the call-in show. The insights of the community reporters were also used to adjust the risk communication messages.
Breakthrough ACTION recently received additional funding to support the development of activities to support the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts. According to the New York Times’ vaccine tracker, 1.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Guatemala, with nine percent of Guatemalans having received a first dose and nearly two percent fully vaccinated.