The coronavirus had considerably slowed down the trade in goods and services worldwide. Like many others, marketplace traders in Mocuba, Mozambique had not been spared from the economic fallout of COVID-19. Amid these uncertain times, however, government leadership and SNV’s hygiene behavioural change activities had helped marketplace traders stand firm against the virus. And at the same time, engage in a positive and healthy competition for more hygienic and cleaner marketplaces.
Meet Fátima António Luís, a trader in the central market of Mocuba. For over 10 years, Fátima has been selling a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Recently, she expressed, there has been ‘a bit of movement in the market,’ – a change for the better that fellow traders have been longing for since the virus hit.
An uncertain future
‘In the past few months we didn’t have a lot of buyers, we didn’t know for sure if it was because of COVID-19 or because people didn’t have money,’ explained Fátima. She added, 'but in conversation with my fellow traders, some say that the lack of money in the markets is associated with the coronavirus because flow of goods in and out of the country has been interrupted.’
Looking back, Fátima said, ‘when the news about a respiratory disease killing a lot of people in China broke, we were all scared.’ For Fatima and many others, diseases that wreak havoc in more industrialised countries – with no cure – is a cause for worry. They asked, ‘What will happen to us when this disease reaches our country?’
Public-private partnerships for change
After the virus was declared a pandemic, the government – with SNV and other partners – scaled up its efforts to disseminate information on how individuals and communities could help contain the coronavirus. Hand hygiene behaviour change messages were broadcasted through radio and television. As part of the Unilever-FCDO Hygiene Behaviour Change Coalition, SNV mobilised trainers/facilitators to visit markets daily and offer practical advice on how traders can reorganise the market and help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
HBCC poster behind market trader to remind market goers of good hygiene practice
According to Fatima, ‘There are now many stalls that have a bucket and soap here in the market, and we always encourage our customers to wash their hands and wear masks. We are also serving one customer at a time to avoid crowding. I think that this is a good way to behave during the pandemic and good practice to prevent COVID-19 spread.’
Market traders take charge
As part of HBCC, SNV’s introduced a 5-star market rating system, which appears to have successfully rallied the support of traders for improved hygiene behaviours. The 5-star market rating is an adapted version of the star-rating system applied in hotels and resorts. The rating system offers an easy-to-follow checklist, which has made it possible for market volunteers to carry out the rating and monitoring system themselves. Market volunteers were supported by HBCC programme facilitators who used loudspeakers to draw the attention of market goers to hand hygiene practice, and the location of posters and handwashing stations in a market.
A main challenge, according to Fátima, is that some people don't like to wear masks because it bothers them and makes breathing difficult. ‘But the truth is that the mask has many advantages, we can even say that since people started to wear the mask out of obligation, it has reduced the number of people who would catch the cold and become congested, as they are not inhaling dust,’ she exclaimed.
As a reminder to the public, Fátima called for everybody to stand firm and continue to practise preventative COVID-19 measures. She said, ‘No one wants to be touched by death, we all want to be safe and in good health and to keep our families safe!’
Note: Quotes translated from the Portuguese language