Implications of science communication for NGOs in addressing COVID19 in Bangladesh: A qualitative reflection

Implications of science communication for NGOs in addressing COVID19 in Bangladesh: A qualitative reflection

Author: Habib Mohammad Ali, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, Bangladesh

Co-author: Bishaka Tanchangya, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, Bangladesh

Format: Online conference, 5 April – Watch session recording

In this session presenters will explore connections between science communication, politics and social themes.

Bangladesh, a country of South Asia, is affected by climate change, refugee migration, and health crises. Along with the government, NGOs have been providing services to those affected by these crises across the country. NGO professionals communicate science-based information to raise awareness of different health hazards caused by floods, droughts, salinity in water due to sea rise, tornados, and COVID-19 among the vulnerable groups. It seems that science communication plays a supportive role through these NGO professionals in the social development of Bangladesh. Therefore, NGOs can be perceived as active social agents and stakeholders that apply, promote and organize science communication to address the needs of different disadvantaged communities. It has been observed that NGOs, under the terms of risk and health communication, have played a key role in raising awareness of COVID-19 to counter misinformation by disseminating science-based information among target groups and stakeholders.

This proposal, based on an ongoing qualitative study, will discuss the implications of science communication for NGOs in Bangladesh with a focus on COVID-19 prevention scenario. It follows an exploratory case study approach to investigate the issue by focusing on Rupantor (Transformation), an NGO located in the coastal zone of Bangladesh. It will also shed light on how this NGO relies on science-based stakeholders and sources for developing preventive messages of COVID-19 pandemic in its health and social interventions. The proposal, with a critical reflection, will identify themes, messages, channels and other aspects of the risk communication campaign process to address COVID-19 by that NGO. The data collected and analyzed through utilizing semi-structured interview and discourse analysis methods found that the NGO used Facebook, YouTube and their website as their prime channels to promote the information about COVID-19 prevention and engage the audiences of the rural areas. Themes of its campaign messages include applying health and hygiene measures, preventing misinformation, stopping discrimination against the repatriated workers, stopping child marriage during this crisis, responding to cyclones with COVID-19 crisis, and eating healthy diets. To collect and organize science-based information for developing campaign messages, the NGO professionals relied on the regular announcements of the World Health Organizations, Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research Bangladesh, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Bangladesh and other related trustworthy sources.

The study tried to advance the theory of participatory science communication by exploring the NGO’s discursive role to communicate the COVID-19 prevention messages and its spaces to engage local people and NGO members in developing YouTube materials and social media content on the risk and science communication issues. The findings of this study will be presented through Power Point presentation slides with different themes and photographs. It will also include one video of the campaign with English subtitles and the web-links of its online materials. The knowledge from this study will benefit NGO workers in other parts of the world to develop their interventions to address such crises while relevant scholars can find newer avenues for further studies on examining the role of NGOs in communicating risk and science related issues for public welfare. It will also contribute to scholarship and theory building in the understudied area of NGO-related participatory science communication.