Wednesday, April 17, 2024

We are in this together!

With this corona epidemic, Sri Lankans, as a nation, have reached a decisive stage. The government has taken steps to extend the strict travel restrictions imposed to control the current epidemic, until 07 June. The time has come for all citizens of the country to understand the seriousness of the disaster.

In this situation, Sri Lankans need to get together, keeping in mind that “Unity, Understanding and Helping each other” is the mantra for Covid-19, for any country. We have witnessed that whatever disaster that crops up, people panic and try to do something different. And when things settle (after the disaster) you can see the “same person” with “No-sense”.

So, the role of educating and empowering people on this is a must. In this situation, it is important to see how you can use different strategies. Hence it is worthwhile to discuss one of the best practices of New Zealand. The largest live music concert, since Covid-19 came into the scene, was recently held at New Zealand’s largest stadium, attended by over 50,000 people. The concert was free from any social isolation and wearing masks, and this can be considered as   a great opportunity to showcase New Zealand’s success in controlling the virus.

A key feature, one can observe in New Zealand, is that the higher authorities made decisions by taking the opinions of health professionals and experts in the health sector. Another key aspect is how the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, communicated the national strategy, in connection with the disaster, to the people at the outset of the epidemic. In that message, Prime Minister Jacinda said that the epidemic was a “difficult time for all” and called on the people in the country to “be kind, compassionate, and understanding.” This message was properly communicated, with the media, including social media (all cooperated despite, their own political agenda, by looking at the context of the national disaster – one lesson  to our politicians) Interestingly, a well-known Māori proverb  “He waka eke noa” (We are in this together) also became their inspiration to rally behind their government as they fought against the virus. (The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of mainland New Zealand, who originated with settlers from eastern Polynesia, and arrived in New Zealand, in several waves of waka voyages, between roughly 1320 and 1350). This is a clear example of how the country used its traditions for better collaboration.

The time has come for us to think differently, – learn, and act with responsibility in the face of this crisis. “Blaming each other” must be stopped and the situation must be understood with more responsibility. If “health promotion” can be used effectively as a country and a nation, it will undoubtedly be the main factor for long-term sustainable development for any country. At the moment, we could not see any integrated communication strategy.

We should be innovative, taking into account that most countries like to go back to some of their traditions and use some of the values of there traditions by looking at the holistic picture of the country. Like “He waka eke noa” we should have our own (marketing) communication strategy to educate and empower people.

Anyway, the country needs to understand the “value of people” who respect the love of tradition.

“A love for tradition has never weakened a nation, indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril”- Winston Churchill

Prof. Nalin Abeysekera


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