Stay at home” was the call from a loudspeaker that echoed in a remote village of Jamrud in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The village men sitting in the hujra (sitting room) were fuming. Though most of them were educated, yet they still questioned the ongoing COVID-19 awareness campaign. Coincidentally, a phone call from a COVID-19 patient from a neighbouring village was connected through a loudspeaker— mounted on a van rented by a Tehsil Municipal Administrator. The narration of the patient's ordeal to the crowd was a turning point. Thereafter, those who questioned the mobilization efforts, now stood by it. The announcer behind the loudspeaker was 33-year-old Amanat Ali Afridi, who is presently serving as a Local Government Ambassador in district Khyber.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, all 120 Local Government Ambassadors (LGA) immediately came together to establish a new approach to help their communities. Under the patronage of the Local Government Reforms Unit (LGRU) established by UNDP, the role of LGAs shifted from community mobilizers to front line workers. The LGRU team (working under UNDP’s Merged Areas Governance Project) extended support to the newly setup Tehsil Municipal Administrators (TMA) in the merged areas by relocating and posting the LGAs with their respective Tehsil Municipal Offices (TMO). They were also provided training and sanitation manuals, safety kits, posters, and leaflets for convenient and safe work with the masses. 

At present, Amanat is working closely with the Tehsil Municipal Officer Jamrud in his new role as part of the COVID-19 response team. He, along with his colleagues, conducted community awareness in the markets of Jamrudand surrounding villages through loudspeakers, that were installed on the TMO’s vehicle and a rented carry-van. Simultaneously, “Stay at Home” messages were announced in local mosques. His duty was not limited to awareness; he also supervised disinfection in residential areas and quarantine centers, burial measures, and other matters related to the community response to the pandemic.

The acid test for Amanat came when the TMO Jamrud contracted coronavirus and he had to remain in quarantine for 28 days.  Amidst the peak of a health crisis in the merged areas, Amanat single handedly took charge of monitoring COVID-19 related activities in the area.

“Whenever there were complaints about COVID-19 measures, the District Commissioner or Assistant Commissioners would tag me in the official WhatsApp group of COVID-19 response Jamrud. I would then ensure that all the SOPs were followed and people received assistance. I would also  update the TMA Jamrud daily,” explained Amanat.

Ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr festivities, Amanat managed to disinfect all 17 Eidgahs (outdoor enclosures for Eid prayers) in Jamrud, drew social distancing circles in mosques and distributed 400 sanitizers at its the entry and exit points. Being a frontline worker, he along with  the other LGAs, worked during holidays and long after normal office hours. Due to Amanat’s efforts, the locals behavioural response towards COVID-19 has changed. Meanwhile, Amanat himself has been recognized for his services in the district and beyond.

He was awarded an appreciation certificate by the Chief Secretary Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the ceremony  ‘100 days of nation’s resolve’ held to recognize outstanding front-line workers. Mr. Khalid Khan, team lead, LGRU, is proud of the efforts of LGAs, “In the time of unanticipated COVID-19 health emergency, the LGA’s response was spectacular. The way they managed to effectivelyreach out to the community, is the manifestation of this programs vision of making the LGAs become agents of change.”Amanat believes that all of this  was possible due to teamwork and hopes to continue his efforts in serving the people of Jamrud, Khyber.

“This validation of being loved and accepted for your efforts by the community compensates for all our struggles and sleepless nights,” he concludes with a smile.

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