As part of Business Fights Poverty NYC Online 2020, Business Fights Poverty and Unilever are convening a webinar and online peer discussion to explore how business coalitions can help in the fight against COVID-19. The webinar will take place on Wednesday 23 September 2020 at 8.30 – 9.30am EDT / 1.30 – 2.30pm BST / 3.30 – 4.30 EAT, followed by 30 minutes Peer Discussion.
Register here to attend.
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered unprecedented coalitions by all sectors of society to protect the lives, livelihoods and learning of the world’s most vulnerable people. Throughout the pandemic, public health experts have emphasised that basic hygiene practices – such as handwashing, physical distancing and wearing a mask – are vital lines of defence against the spread of disease.
However, in an unequal world, access to basic hygiene and sanitation is not a given. Furthermore, for those in informal and precarious employment, isolating at home may mean being unable to afford food. As Mr Singh, a migrant worker in New Delhi so eloquently put it, “Instead of coronavirus, the hunger will kill us.”
In East Africa, several factors have inhibited the ability of people to adopt measures against the spread of COVID-19. Physical distancing may be near-impossible in high population settings, where people live in multigenerational households and subsist day-to-day. Lack of running water and supplies such as soap and masks – or the inability to afford the supplies that are available – also prevent compliance. These difficulties are compounded by the spread of misinformation about supposed treatments or ineffective preventive behaviours.
In this context, businesses have formed coalitions with governments, international organisations and the not-for-profit sector to ensure that all people can have the information and supplies they need to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19.
One leading such platform is The National Business compact on Coronavirus in Kenya, a platform for collaboration between businesses, the UN family and NGOs. The model of NBCC is now being expanded in Uganda and Tanzania, and is seen as a blueprint for other partnerships to respond to the pandemic.
What is the National Business Compact on Coronavirus
The National Business Compact on Coronavirus (NBCC) is a collaboration for businesses and other organizations to take urgent local action against COVID-19. NBCC was launched in Nairobi on 16 March 2020 – the day the first case was recorded in the country.
The coalition takes a collaborative and industry-wide approach, with competing companies in the hygiene sector working together – including Unilever (through its Hygiene Behaviour Change Coalition partnership with DFID), Reckitt Benckiser, Pwani, PZ Cussons and Menengai, as well as community-based soap manufacturers. The coalition also includes the Marketing Society of Kenya, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers with its member companies, the UN family in Kenya and nongovernment organizations such as Amref.
To maximise the effectiveness of the national and international response strategy, NBCC supports the priorities of the Kenyan Government. It also works in line with UN and WHO guidance and the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 Outbreak.
Its work centres on three focus priorities:
NBCC provides a unified communications platform, utilising mass media marketing strategies and companies’ advertising budgets and assets to reach communities with information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The campaign does not promote brands, instead focusing on key public health messages.
For example, NBCC worked with Heroes for Change, a social mobilisation volunteer programme anchored on the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), to create a video for social media explaining how to make low-cost hand sanitiser.
As the pandemic progressed, the focus of messages shifted from the dissemination of information to encouraging compliance. The #NBCCMaskChallenge encourages everyone to “wear a mask and wear it right”. NBCC have also provided strategic communication on food availability, accessibility and proper nutrition to support the 1 Million Kitchen Garden Campaign.
NBCC works to distribute hygiene facilities, through their partners’ distribution networks and community hubs. In particular, they are focused on the last mile and at-risk hotspots – for example, areas of low income and dense housing.
As of August 2020, NBCC and its partners have installed up to 5,400 hand washing stations across Kenya, reaching approximately 15,762 Million people – including to those in prison and refugee camps – whilst creating employment for people who have lost their livelihoods in the pandemic.
Other examples include delivering 20,000 locally-made, reusable masks to young people, and installing solar water pumps in a remote rural district. NBCC partner Amref Health Africa worked through its Hygiene and Behavior Change Coalition (HBCC) project, funded by DFID and Unilever, to help 7200 community healthcare workers carry out their work safely and share public health messages with their communities.
Finally, NBCC seeks to raise funds and mobilise flexible resources, including both financial and in-kind donations.
They created a flexi-fund for rapid response to government appeals which has been publicised in national media and a global crowdfunding appeal. Funds have been used to provide hygiene essentials to vulnerable communities, equip government quarantine facilities, and to support doctors to provide hotline services.
NBCC are also engaging in multi-stakeholder dialogue through the UN Kenya East African Philanthropy Network on the role and opportunities for blended finance to continue to protect communities against COVID-19 and reduce its long-term economic impacts. Blended finance models use capital from public or philanthropic sources to catalyse private sector investment in sustainable development.
Sharing Global Best Practice
In addition to these three priority areas, NBCC are sharing the lessons they have learned with the global community, in order to support other national coalitions operating elsewhere in the world. In-depth reports, tool-kits and webinars on the lessons from NBCC, on how to promote handwashing and how to build successful coalitions on COVID-19 are available through our Business and COVID-19 Response Centre.
How can I find out more?
Please join us for our webinar on Wednesday 23 September 2020 at 8.30 – 9.30am EDT / 1.30 – 2.30pm BST / 3.30 – 4.30 EAT, followed by 30 minutes Peer Discussion.
We are co-hosting this event with Unilever, who has a long-standing commitment to promoting handwashing practices to prevent disease. As well as being a NBCC partner, Unilever joined forces with the UK government’s Department for International Development on a £100 million COVID-19 handwashing campaign which aimed to reach a billion people worldwide. Unilever’s contribution included product donations, communications collateral and support for hygiene behaviour change across a range of partners.
During the session, our panellists will share insights from their experience of collaborating through the National Business Compact on Coronavirus in Kenya. In particular, the session will seek to:
- Identify valuable learnings from actions already underway in East Africa to tackle COVID-19 and support recovery efforts, including those led by the National Business Compact on Coronavirus in Kenya.
- Draw out practical insights from other behaviour change efforts around the world, including challenges and strategies for overcoming these.
- Highlight key priorities for collective action as we begin efforts to rebuild better.
We very much look forward to having you join us at the online event.
This online event on Business Coalitions to Fight COVID-19 is part of Business Fights Poverty NYC Online 2020, a one-week, online conference (21 to 25 September) that builds on our recent online conference Business Fights Poverty Online 2020 (13 to 17 July) to drive forward connection, conversations and collaboration around how we rebuild better – how together we create an equitable and resilient world.
The week consists of inspiring and engaging content, live events, peer networking and community-led learning. The week also builds on our Business and COVID-19 Response with Harvard Kennedy School Corporate Responsibility Initiative, and supported by DFID and a number of our corporate partners.
Each day, we will focus on a specific theme: Imagining the Future We Want (Monday); Creating an Equitable World (Tuesday); Helping People Survive and Thrive (Wednesday); Building Resilient Livelihoods (Thursday); Shaping System-Level Partnerships (Friday).
The conference Headline Supporter is Visa. Our Supporting Partners are Mars, Nestlé, and Standard Chartered. Content partners include Harvard Kennedy School Corporate Responsibility Initiative, the UN Office for Partnerships, WBCSD, Business in the Community, The Partnering Initiative and the League of Intrapreneurs.