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Toll free hotline for Covid 19

By Lwam kahsay

Since the first covid-19 case in Eritrea was reported, the Eritrean government and the Ministry of Health (MoH) have been making efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.

They have been providing people with timely and accurate information about Covid 19. One way the public is being kept abreast developments regarding Covid 19 has been through the establishment of MoH’s call center (Information Center), which provides toll free lines.

The Call center was established on April 2nd, following the national lockdown implemented at the end of March, with a view to providing timely information and receiving feedback from the community. Since then, it has been answering questions forwarded by people all over the six regions of Eritrea. The Call center has 24 volunteers who work 24 hours a day throughout the week. According to Dr. Habtom Kifle, head of the media unit of the Health Promotion Division who is assigned to coordinate the Information center, the volunteers are all members of staff at the MoH.

The coordinators developed guidance and code of ethics to help the hotline operators be uniform in their undertakings. Dr. Habtom said the Call center, which was set up in response to the COVID pandemic, is the first ever toll free call center at MoH. Within the past few months the center has served as a real-time information sharing platform. By providing accurate information it denies rumors from taking root and misleading the public. It helps with contact tracing and works with mobile screening teams. At the same time it adjust Referrals to centralized quarantine areas and treatment centers and Provide routine ambulance services for other health needs. The call center gives information and guidelines given by the High Level Task Force on COVID-19.

The Information center has served as fast and sustainable source of information particularly during the complete lockdown phase. It has also been a two-way communication platform, key to creating and maintaining trust to address fear.

Since its operations began in April, the Information center has entertained almost 22565 calls. The most frequently asked questions relate to the general situation, the spread of Covid 19 in Eritrea and neighboring countries, as well as what the corona virus is, how it is spread, its prevention methods and whether the disease has a cure or vaccine.

Recently, the MoH has organized an exhibition in Sawa to showcase the efforts made to deal with Covid 19 pandemic. The exhibition, which was officially opened on August 14 by President Isaias Afwerki, featured promotional materials, laboratory equipment (including ventilators), photos depicting activities at quarantine sites and members of the case management teams in their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to show the readiness of the Government and the MoH to combat the Covid 19 pandemic. In briefing the audience at the exhibition, Dr Habtom emphasized that the call center has been serving as a reliable source of timely information and been playing a big role in promoting health education.

The Information center will continue to operate even post Covid- 19 pandemic under the supervision of the Health Promotion Division of the MoH. to deal with other health-related issues and interact with the community.

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