AD401: In Angola’s COVID-19 fight, trusted religious and traditional leaders, military can be allies

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Dispatches
2020
AD401
David Boio and Carlos Pacatolo

As Angola continues under a “situation of public calamity” to limit the spread of the coronavirus, reliable information remains an essential tool in the fight to protect the country. Despite early lockdowns, the number of confirmed infections in the country has climbed to more than 8,300, with more than 250 deaths, and restrictions on travel, gatherings, and businesses remain in effect, including a sanitary “fence” limiting movement in and out of Luanda, the pandemic’s epicenter in Angola (World Health Organization, 2020; Ministério da Saúde, 2020; O País, 2020).

A public opinion study published in April found that a majority of Angolans supported the country’s first state of emergency (27 March-10 April) as well as its extension, were following information about COVID-19 carefully, but had the perception that most of their fellow citizens were not taking the pandemic seriously enough (Boio, Pacatolo, & Mbangula, 2020).

A strategy of building community awareness to effectively combat the community dissemination of COVID-19 may need to look to allies in past polio vaccination campaigns, as well as in COVID-19 pandemic responses in other countries (see the example of Ghana in Sanny & Asiamah, 2020): religious leaders, the Angolan Armed Forces, and traditional authorities.

Afrobarometer’s first survey in Angola, carried out in November-December 2019, shows that citizens trust these three groups more than other key institutions and officials. This trust can be a strategic asset in raising citizens' awareness of individual- and community-level COVID-19 prevention measures.