A still from a DMI animation encouraging people to wear face masks funded by the RRF

Location COVID-19

COVID-19 Rapid Response


When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Africa, we were approached by governments from several of the countries where we work to help with getting COVID-19 messages to their populations. We set up a COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund (RRF) to quickly produce and broadcast COVID-19 information and behaviour change campaigns, tailored to the context of each country.


Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia


COVID-19 – information about virus symptoms and spread, promoting physical distancing, shielding of the vulnerable, mask use and hand and respiratory hygiene.


53 x 1-minute radio spots produced in 37 languages, two short films, and two animations distributed via social media and on TV.


We went on air as early as April 2020 on popular radio and TV stations as well as key social media channels in Burkina Faso (more info here), Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Estimated Reach

40 million people

Project at a glance

40 million
People reached

Our Approach


Using remote research methods

We were unable to conduct face-to-face field research as we usually would, to get input into behaviours, concepts and scripts from the target audience. So we consulted with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the African Center for Disease Control (Africa CDC) to inform our messaging strategy and ensure it was in line with international guidelines. We then employed remote research techniques to conduct our formative research, collecting data via phone interviews, WhatsApp and other socially distant methods. This research allowed us to uncover local misconceptions about the disease and identify unique barriers and facilitators to adopting COVID-19 prevention measures in each of our countries of operation.


Engaging radio and audiovisual content

Our scriptwriting teams in Burkina Faso and Tanzania wrote and produced 53 scripts for 1-minute radio spots. These spots were shared with teams in Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and Zambia, who adapted the storylines and key messages to reflect the local context and dubbed the spots into local languages.

We broadcast messages on topics such as: what is COVID-19? How does it spread? And how do you protect against COVID-19? We also addressed themes such as physical distancing, shielding of vulnerable people, mask use and hand and respiratory hygiene.

In addition, we produced audiovisual content to explain complex ideas and promote specific behaviours more easily. We produced a 90-second animation explaining how reducing social contacts slows the spread of COVID-19, an animation informing audiences of the potential benefits of mask use, and two short live action films that discuss the same themes (the importance of social distancing, mask use).

cartoon of people in rural Africa physically distancing
A TV in the corner of a room demonstrating the distribution mechanism used by DMI in this campaign


Daily broadcasts in 9 countries in 52 languages

Our government, radio and TV station partners supported us to get our content on air quickly and at low or no cost of airtime, due to the crisis posed by the pandemic. We broadcast radio spots six to 10 times a day from April to November 2020 across our nine countries of operation. The animations have been broadcast on TV and posted on government and other social media platforms. The two live action films were shot in Cote d’Ivoire and have been broadcast on Canal+, the most popular French-speaking TV channel in West Africa (which commands 61% of market share).


Project impact

Our Impact

Analysing reactions to our social distancing animation

We worked with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) in Burkina Faso to conduct a mobile phone survey with previous survey participants of our family planning RCT to evaluate the impact of our radio messaging on knowledge, attitudes and practices around COVID-19 and its effect on people’s lives. Preliminary results of this survey found that 81% of women cited radio as their primary source of information about COVID-19, followed by friends or acquaintances at 6% and health facility staff at just 3%.

Our social distancing animation was positively received and viewed over 6 million times on the Ministry of Health’s Facebook page (by July 2020). We conducted a thematic analysis of 1577 Facebook comments left on the animation to gain further insight into people’s perceptions of the virus and attitudes to social distancing in Burkina Faso.

Partners & Funders

We would like to thank GiveWell, the Mulago Foundation, the UBS Optimus Foundation and the Skoll Foundation, as well as a host of private donors and foundations for supporting this campaign and allowing us to quickly respond to the emerging needs in the countries where we work.

A face mask as an indication this project focuses on covid-19

What Next

Remaining Ready to Act

As new, more infectious strains of COVID-19 emerge, we plan to continue our COVID-19 campaigning where needed. We are also seeking funds to tackle its secondary effects. WHO has stressed that campaigning on treatment-seeking to increase the demand for essential health services where they are available is a priority at this time. And where these services are not available, mass media can be used to promote healthy behaviours in the home.