Covid-19 outreach from ISMB to Kenya - making a difference in our communities
17 July 2020
When the first confirmed Covid-19 case was reported in my country, Kenya, I called my parents to check on them and boy, did they have an interesting take on the disease!
To my parents, Covid-19 was mystical, a view they shared with other people in my community in Kiptugumo village in Kericho County of Kenya. During the call, I also learned that because of the mystery surrounding Covid-19 and its causative virus, SARS-CoV-2, the disease was referred to as Korot-neh-ya, which, in my native language, Kalenjin, means ‘the terrible illness.’
It occurred to me that this misperception of Covid-19 was probably due to ignorance and was a major impediment to the appreciation of public health guidance on slowing the spread of the disease. To address this challenge and reach people of all levels of education in my community, I created short video clips explaining in simplified terms technical biological concepts about Covid-19 in the Kalenjin language. In my first clip (below), I translated the public guidance on how to correctly use face coverings to limit virus transmission.
Initially, I intended to share the video clip only within my social networks. However, the video clip was shared very widely (via Whatsapp) and eventually, it attracted the attention of KASS Media, an ethnic radio and television outlet reaching nearly 6 million listeners in Kenya and internationally. Subsequently, KASS hosted me for a radio interview, which encouraged me to open a Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/tkipbyegter) to share more content in my native language. I now release one video clip every month via this channel.
I believe that by presenting fundamental concepts of biology in a language that is accessible to everyone in my community, I can help to demystify infectious diseases so that people can better appreciate disease prevention measures, seek appropriate treatment, and eliminate stigma which often originates from misinformation.
Dr Terry Kipkorir holds a PhD in Medical Microbiology from the University of Cape Town and is the recipient of the Academy of Medical Sciences/Newton International Fellowship. His research under the supervision of Dr. Kristine Arnvig at the ISMB-UCL focuses on elucidating the mechanisms of riboregulation of gene expression by vitamin B12 in Mycobacterium tuberculosis.