Melvis Kimbi during a past field activity.
Melvis Kimbi during a past field activity.

Amplifying critical health messages about COVID-19

My name is Melvis Kimbi and I am currently serving with the World Health Organization (WHO) as an international UN Volunteer in Madagascar. I am from Cameroon and started my UN Volunteer assignment in October 2020, through the WHO/UNV Africa Women Health Champions programme.* 

Since the onset of COVID-19, online content and social media have become more important forms of public communication than ever. As a communications officer, I am heavily involved in the strategic management of WHO Madagascar's social media and online presence. I support implementation of communications strategies to position the organization as a lead partner in health responses in the country.

Through my experience delivering health messages, I have learned that being online is not just about dropping content and leaving it to the audience to collect information they need, rather about creating conversations and interactions. In fact, health communication is a continuous and public-facing process, mostly aimed at influencing behaviour changes and improving health for individuals and groups.

 As a communication officer, it is extremely rewarding when I receive requests from the public for critical health information and getting feedback that my input is helpful.  I am also happy to have brought some of my past experiences in the public and private sectors, including the UN, emphasizing the critical role of press reviews and content monitoring in understanding community health concerns and informing WHO's interventions.  

UN Volunteer Melvis Kimbi speaking during training of journalists in Antananarivo

UN Volunteer Melvis Kimbi speaking during training of journalists in Antananarivo, Madagascar. ©WHO Madagascar/Rija Ramamiarijery, 2020

Unfortunately, I embarked on my assignment when the COVID-19 pandemic was ongoing. This was quite a challenge because my journalistic work is based on reaching out to communities, meeting beneficiaries and getting feedback to measure the impact of our work. However, thanks to the advancement of technology, I have learned that it's possible to help people and make a difference without even leaving my house.

During the pandemic, I have also learned to be more patient and kinder to people. Many people are going through a lot of challenges, and now is the time to be more considerate and to give people hope. And indeed, these are values that form a core element of volunteerism. 

Melvis Kimbi during a fieldwork activity.

Melvis Kimbi during a fieldwork activity. ©Melvis Kimbi (personal archive), 2019

Beyond the value of volunteerism, I believe volunteers have a whole mine of patience and inspiration that they bring to work. I see this on a daily basis when I interact with other UN Volunteers. The value that UN Volunteers are creating within communities is not driven by money or financial reward, but the desire to leave an impact and see the change.

Additionally, the fact that UN Volunteers serve for a limited time also drives us to do our best within a short period. It is also quite notable that the UNV programme invests a lot in skilling up UN Volunteers to enhance their impact during their assignments. I am proud that I have been part of this great initiative. The fact that WHO opened this position for an international UN Volunteer is also a great recognition of the value that UN Volunteers have to offer.

Before joining the WHO as a UN Volunteer, I used to see the 'we are inspiration in action' tagline. At that time, I wasn't keen on understanding the meaning of the phrase. However, as a UN Volunteer, now I truly understand why UN Volunteers are inspiration in action.

I believe that volunteerism isn’t just about highly skilled work, but rather about innovation and service. I would encourage anyone who can volunteer, particularly during these challenging times, to go out and lend a helping hand. I hope that soon, the world will open up and we will get to serve in person. 




*The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme launched a new intiative in 2020: the Africa Women Health Champions. The partnership seeks to recruit 100 women to support WHO in improving people's health and wellbeing in the region, while also promoting gender equality on the continent. Read more here.