Here comes the third wave. Like the first COVID-19 wave and the second wave, we cannot know in advance its peak, scale, or duration. I often think that things could have been different if we could have predicted the pandemic’s impact, but we were found to be ill-prepared. If we had relevant information and better disaster preparedness, we might all be living differently by now, I guess. We could be enjoying a more relaxed life, visiting family and friends without being afraid of endangering people's lives.
How do we contain attacks from an enemy that we do not see, do not know, and whose moves we can’t predict? Well, we have learnt a lot! This wave is devastating and deadly, and although it doesn’t totally explain the speed of the spread, people being less cautious is likely to be fuelling it. The three waves have one thing in common: that is that you can flatten them just by following the simple steps of physical distancing, handwashing and mask-wearing.
Based on the information we now have, GAIN has developed some tailored guidance for food markets to allow safe, resilient operations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the countries of Africa and Asia where we work, traditional food markets are more than a physical space to buy or eat food. Markets there are a cultural space, where food is traded not only to keep people healthy, but because anyone can afford to go there, make purchases, and enjoy the feeling of community. Shopping Centres, supermarkets, and other similar places are relevant too, but traditional food markets keep nutritious and safe foods accessible to all, and that is why GAIN is deeply invested in protecting and strengthening them.
The guidance, as reviewed and approved by our many partners, is intended to be effective in preventing other zoonotic and foodborne diseases in addition to COVID-19. Local governments, vendors and market authorities helped us to adapt these guidelines, based originally on advice from international normative institutions. These will now be used in Bangladesh, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Mozambique.
While looking for an effective way to stop or mitigate the pandemic, countries are and must reopen communities and open food systems to allow life to 'normalise'. Unfortunately, fatigue is causing new waves. We believe that human behaviour is the major key to change. So, we are sharing, on social media, on your phone, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, but mostly in food markets, content that we believe can lower transmission of the virus.
Starting from next week, our country teams will help local market associations, vendors and governments, to lead dissemination campaigns. Guidance is presented in different visual formats, including booklets, posters and short animations, and is designed to be accessible and relevant to local and regional audiences. The materials are being made available in the form of 'toolkits' that can be easily reproduced and used by local partner organizations, at little or no cost. Materials will be shared in print and online, including through social media channels.
Help us make food markets safer, take these materials and make them your own, share with everyone who needs to see them! All you have to do is download the files, add your logo if you want, and you are ready to join the fight!