Published: Apr 23, 2020 Reading time: 2 minutes
© Photo: PIN Cambodia

The COVID-19 pandemic reached Cambodia in early March, causing widespread anxiety and fear among the population. These feelings were exacerbated by a steady increase in the number of confirmed cases across the country.

With support from the National Committee for Disaster Management, People in Need (PIN) Cambodia swiftly incorporated a COVID-19 awareness campaign into our disaster management program. The campaign utilizes Early Warning System (EWS) 1294, created to warn residents of impending natural disasters, by sending mobile phone alerts to people in 25 cities and provinces.

“EWS 1294 sends out voice alerts with information on COVID-19 to its registered users, using innovative Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology,” says Jak Chowdhary, PIN Cambodia Program Coordinator. “Within the first three weeks of activity, the system had successfully disseminated 129,843 individual messages related to COVID-19 to the public.”

Phone alerts lead to improved hygiene

These informational messages are helping Vuthy Choun, Chief of Toul Dambang village, protect his community. “Warning messages about COVID-19 give me more information about the disease and preventive measures we should be taking. I can then share this information with my fellow villagers so that we can stay safe together. The messages are similar to the ones we get before floods; I think it’s great that we receive such useful alerts,” says Choun. “People in our community have also been practicing better hygiene thanks to the messages. We protect ourselves by cleaning our hands with soap and wearing a protective mask or krama (scarf made from silk).”

PIN Cambodia has also increased the number of dissemination channels for circulating additional information about COVID-19, making effective use of the EWS 1294 Facebook page, which currently has 70,000 followers. 

This page includes material from reliable sources – including the World Health Organization and the Cambodian Ministry of Health – which has been translated into the local language in order to give more people access to important information about the pandemic. These Covid-19 related posts have since accumulated 150,000 engagements and achieved a collective reach of 1.2 million.

The continuous development of EWS1294 is led by People In Need currently with funds from UNDP Cambodia and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic (previously funded also by EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department or Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) and support from the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM).

Autor: Southeavuth Choun, PIN Cambodia Communication Officer