Pact has a long history of helping communities in Eswatini overcome health challenges. For years, we’ve worked to reduce HIV infections, most recently through the USAID-funded Insika ya Kusasa program. The program offers tailored support for children and adolescents affected by HIV, including case management and home visits.
When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Pact had to adapt. Although the first wave of the virus wasn’t as bad as in many other countries, it still hit Swazis hard. Pact’s community case workers immediately noticed one issue in particular: The families they served didn’t have much accurate information about Covid.
“Whenever there is a vacuum of correct information, misinformation tends to fill that gap,” says Chantelle Hulett, Pact’s HIV prevention technical lead in Eswatini. Insika ya Kusasa quickly adjusted its programming to meet this need, sharing facts with families via phone counseling sessions, text messages and home visits when safe.
Then earlier this year, the Insika team saw its best opportunity yet to stop Covid misinformation. USAID provided Pact with additional funding to help build demand at the community level for Covid vaccinations.
“We immediately thought an app was what we needed. Radio and newspapers are good, but we worried we’d miss certain groups, especially young people, if we used only traditional media,” Hulett says. “So much of the misinformation was spreading online, on Facebook and platforms like that, so we wanted to counter that online as well.”
Thus was born the Health Alert App.