SOCIAL EFFECTS OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND THE ROLE OF LOCAL INSTITUTIONS AND CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS IN PREVENTING THE PANDEMIC AMONG THE RURAL COMMUNITY IN SIDAMA REGIONAL STATE OF ETHIOPIA
Keywords:Awareness, Covid-19 pandemic, Civic Society Organizations, Local institutions, Prevention, Social effects
Covid-19 pandemic is an emerging health challenge, which abruptly constrained the socioeconomic settings of the global community. The rural communities within developing nations were among others that seriously affected by covid-19 pandemic due to their limited access for basic infrastructures and social services. Cognizant to these premises, this study was conducted to assess the social impacts of covid-19 pandemic and the roles of local institutions in preventing the pandemic among the rural communities within Sidama Regional State of Ethiopia. Consequently, the study has aimed to assess perceived and actual awareness of the community about covid-19 pandemic symptoms, transmission and prevention mechanisms, to examine covid-19 pandemic prevention practices of the community, to investigate the roles of local institutions on covid-19 prevention and to analyze the social effects of covid-19 pandemic on the rural community. Descriptive, cross-sectional household survey design with a mixed research approach has been applied in the study. Both primary and secondary data sources were consulted using survey questionnaire, key informant in-depth-interview and personal observation as well as document reviewing techniques. Three sample woredas (Hawassa Zuriya, Dale and Boricha) were purposefully selected from Sidama regional state due to their geographic proximity to the urban centers that are more likely exposed for covid-19 diffusion through the urban-rural public movements. Two sample kebeles from each woreda and a total of 384 household sample respondents were selected using simple random sampling technique. Moreover, concerned key informants were purposefully selected from various segments of the society based on their knowledge and proximity related to covid-19 prevention campaigns. Mixed method that combined both quantitative and qualitative techniques has been used for the data analysis. The finding of the study revealed low awareness level of the community about covid-19 pandemic symptoms, transmit ion and prevention mechanisms. The finding also discovered fair association between the awareness levels of the respondents’ vis-à-vis their application of covid-19 prevention measures. Subsequently, the finding implied low prevention practices where only 41.4 % of the respondents were using at least any one of covid-19 prevention mechanisms. Moreover, out of these covid-19 prevention user respondents, majority (61.9%) of them were using it irregularly, while only 38.4% of them were applying it frequently and regularly. Hence, irregularity of the prevention practices is found to be among the challenges in covid-19 prevention. Ingenious herbal medicine plants, local hot drinks and nutritious local food items were mainly used as covid-19 prevention mechanism in the study area. In addition, face mask, hand washing with water and soap, sanitizer, covering during cough and sneezing, keeping physical distance and avoidance of attending public gatherings were also rarely practiced by some of the respondents. The local institutions and Civic Society Organization (CSOs) were widely involved in covid-19 pandemic prevention practices in the study area. Awareness creation, supplying face-mask, sanitizer, soap, food and financial support, covid-19 test, counseling and guidance services etc. were among others provided by the local institutions. Concerning the social effects of covid-19 pandemic, the finding indicated that it created job lose, unemployment, income reduction, food shortage, social isolation, limited mobility, limited social service access like; schooling, health services, transportation etc. Moreover, psychological emotions like: stress, fearing, threat and anxiety due to deaths and fatal health problems of covid-19 were also found to be among the social effects. Hence, concerned local governmental organizations, NGOs and civic society organizations should continue and advance covid-19 awareness creation programs through various communication platforms. Moreover, the support and social roles of the indigenous local institutions should be further strengthened as a social safety-net and social capital in covid-19 prevention programs.