6 Ways USAID is Partnering with Businesses During the Pandemic

Countering COVID-19 through the power of public-private partnerships

Oct 23 · 5 min read
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A Facebook post urging users in Sierra Leone to seek malaria care if they have a fever. / Breakthrough ACTION

Absent a vaccine, much of the world relies upon the practice of broad-scale public health practice and preventive behaviors as powerful defenses against COVID-19. The need has never been greater for USAID to promote long-lasting healthy practices and reduce risks through social and behavior change programs.

Partnering with private companies is important in realizing this work during the “new normal.” Public-private partnerships have opened up access to digital platforms that facilitate change and amplify outreach to much larger audiences.

Businesses are often eager to work with public government entities in these types of efforts because it benefits them and it benefits their existing — and potential — clients. Beyond growing their client base through increased exposure, businesses build goodwill and strengthen their reputations when they align with governments in the search for solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. They may also gain legitimacy and credibility as trusted partners of government efforts.

USAID partners broker these relationships to help governments around the world build the networks they need to implement effective health initiatives independently.

1. “Grab”-bing Opportunities to Stop COVID-19 in Burma

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A rideshare user reads a COVID-19 prevention message on Grab’s mobile app. / Breakthrough ACTION

Reaching commuters with COVID-19 prevention messages is critical for limiting the spread of the pandemic. In Burma, USAID teamed with Grab, Myanmar’s leading ride-hailing company, to link users to the “Protect Together” campaign and disseminate messages about wearing masks and washing hands. Information is shared via the ride-hailing company’s mobile application. Approximately two million people have downloaded the Grab application countrywide. “This partnership has contributed to the larger goal of Grab to keep our passengers and drivers safe,” said Cindy Toh, country head of Grab Myanmar. The campaign reached over 5 million people since launching in June.

2. Online Rx for Pandemic Prevention in Indonesia

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Raden Assifa Rahmah, a pharmacist assistant in Java, Indonesia. / Breakthrough ACTION

In Indonesia, pharmacies are usually the initial source of health information in the community. Now, thanks to USAID, they are playing an essential role in preventing the spread of COVID-19. By partnering with mClinica, USAID has reached more than 66,000 pharmacy professionals. mClinica members use the SwipeRX app to receive information to counsel community members on COVID-19 prevention, dispel myths and rumors, and provide advice on what to do if patients or their family members have symptoms. Raden Assifa Rahmah, a pharmacist assistant on the island of Java, said, “I know I am now giving patients accurate and trusted information. I am happy I can make a difference in this fight.” Over 23 million pharmacy clients have benefitted from this improved access to information.

3. “Press 1” for Prevention in Nigeria

Thanks to a partnership with Airtel Nigeria, a leading mobile phone service provider, USAID is making COVID-19 prevention information available across the country. Starting in March, Airtel has reached 1 million subscribers daily with reminders and alerts via text and interactive voice messages about pandemic safety. This activity, along with an on-demand interactive voice response service, 3–2–1, where subscribers could access information about COVID-19, had a reach of over 1.2 million people, with 308,516 callers. Airtel is also providing access to the government’s COVID-19 information website to all of its customers even if they do not pay for data plans.

4. Everyday Heroes in the Philippines

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A campaign poster for BIDA. / Breakthrough ACTION

A new USAID-supported campaign by the Department of Health in the Philippines is urging people to be heroes in the fight against COVID-19. The BIDA Solusyon campaign launched in July was made possible by a partnership between USAID, the Department of Health, and 28 public and private sector organizations including those in the retail, food service, information technology, and insurance industries. “Bida,” which means “hero,” focuses on four principles of COVID-19 prevention. BIDA Solusyon provides information online, in television and radio spots, and through signage in high-traffic areas. As of Sept. 30, the campaign has reached over 160 million views on social media alone. Working closely with private sector partners, USAID is also helping distribute hygiene kits to enable healthy practices. Primarily intended for the lowest income Filipinos in high-risk jobs, the BIDA Solusyon campaign empowers everyone to make life-saving choices.

5. Finding the Answers in South Africa

COVID-19 prevention is getting a boost in South Africa thanks to a USAID partnership with TooMuchWifi, a private internet service provider (ISP). With the ISP’s support, online messaging about COVID-19 safety provided by USAID reached 324,356 users in hotspot regions in July. TooMuchWiFi also sponsored two quizzes, which provided prevention messages to people living in the informal settlements of Cape Town. Over 15,000 users answered questions on handwashing, physical distancing, and identifying symptoms and 200 respondents each won 500 MB of data for acing the quiz.

6. Facebook Campaign Urges Users to #SeekCareForFever in Sub-Saharan Africa

Fear of COVID-19 keeps people from seeking medical care, even for potentially deadly illnesses like malaria. Working closely with Facebook, the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) launched the #SeekCareForFever social media campaign to help users understand that malaria is dangerous and ever-present, and that treatment must be sought immediately — even during this pandemic. With easy-to-understand multimedia posts, #SeekCareForFever was implemented in 10 sub-Saharan countries and Guyana. Representatives from each one received comprehensive training and support, access to custom creative content, and Facebook ad credits, which allowed PMI’s programming to temporarily pivot toward this life-saving endeavor during the pandemic without impacting the projects’ existing resources. The campaign reached over 4.7 million viewers as of Sept. 20.

Public-Private Partnerships Promote Self-Reliance

These multi-sectoral partnerships across the globe demonstrate that economic productivity and COVID-19 prevention can co-exist. These relationships pave the way for everyone to adopt safe, healthy behaviors while adjusting to — and thriving in — the new world we all live in.

About the Authors

Marcela Aguilar is the communications director and Rebecca Pickard is the editor/copywriter for Breakthrough ACTION, USAID’s flagship global social and behavior change project.

U.S. Agency for International Development

Stories of USAID’s Work from Around the World

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