Bakhtibekova Mehrangez was scrolling through Instagram last year when she saw a post from Tajik pop singer Madina that got her attention. Instead of sharing a music update or personal photo, Madina had posted a video demonstrating the correct way to wear a face mask.

Madina teamed up with Local Impact to create the video and share the important reminder with her more than 650,000 Instagram followers. The popular musician is just one of five influential local celebrities and activists that have partnered with the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) to deliver impactful messages through television and social media campaigns, reaching people across Tajikistan.

Local Impact, a partnership between the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), worked with AKAH to educate people in Tajikistan about COVID-19 and preventative measures they could take to slow and stop the spread of the virus.

“When we see Madina giving advice on protection measures, even our children listen carefully and then imitate her,” Bakhtibekova said.

Other Madina fans agreed. “Thank you for your information,” a user wrote as they urged others to learn from the guidance.

Harnessing Local Influence

Like Madina, musicians and celebrities including Jahongir Jiyandarovich, Ismail Ismailov, Chorshanbe Alovatov, and Subhiya Mastonshoeva created videos for television and social media in partnership with with Local Impact’s COVID-19 public health information campaign. Collectively, these influencers have several hundred thousand social media followers, ensuring that their COVID-19 video posts are seen around the country.

Broadcast on stations across every region of Tajikistan, the short videos showed the influencers talking about sanitization measures, mask-wearing, and social distancing. Chorshanbe Alovatov’s videos spread the message to his followers that following safety measures could help them combat the virus together. A recent report on Local Impact’s COVID-19 awareness raising activities in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan found that television was the primary source of COVID-19 information for many people.

“We see these celebrities on TV and we want to watch their videos. They give us essential information about the important measures that each of us needs to follow,” says viewer Shodieva Shafargul from the Rasht Valley.

Bakhtibekova agreed. “We learn a lot from these videos. I think it’s a good way to deliver this lifesaving information.”

Live Long

In the Kyrgyz Republic, Local Impact developed a media campaign to support the country’s Disaster Response Coordination Unit (DRCU). The “Live Long” campaign developed content on COVID-19 for national television channels, radio, Facebook, and Instagram to disseminate information to vulnerable groups.

Illustrations showing people putting masks on, washing hands, exercising, working remotely, and communicating through phones

Illustrations from the Live Long campaign

The content included interviews and question and answer sessions with doctors, psychologists, and patients with COVID-19 to reach both rural and suburban residents with messages on handwashing, wearing masks, and mental health.

The messages created for television were broadcast over 1,500 times on regional and national television channels.

A Broader Impact

Using a variety of platforms including radio, television, social media, and community outreach, Local Impact supported efforts in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan to educate and inform the public on how to prevent the spread.

The study on Local Impact’s work in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan found that this layered approach using multiple communication channels was effective in reinforcing the messages that were delivered by in-person volunteers and helped community members to memorize protective measures. It also found that the use of local celebrities was particularly effective among young people. The repeated messages through multiple platforms increased the use of face masks and hand sanitization in these regions.