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FAQs: Production and distribution of communication materials
Is it safe to distribute printed IEC materials to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Is it safe to distribute printed IEC materials to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Astrid Hasund Thorseth avatar
Written by Astrid Hasund Thorseth
Updated over a week ago

Is it useful to use printed IEC materials?

Before distributing IEC materials, ask yourself what you plan to achieve by doing so and think about how members of your community will use the materials you intend to distribute. In many settings IEC materials are quickly discarded and create unnecessary waste. Printed materials are not always suitable for engaging all members of the population. For example, they can easily be misinterpreted by community members with limited literacy and may not be accessible by children or people with visual impairment. Given these limitations, we would discourage using printed IEC materials as your only means of communicating COVID-19 prevention messages. When planning your response, we recommend incorporating IEC materials to support specific intervention activities that form the community engagement component of your COVID-19 behaviour change strategy.

Producing and distributing IECs materials safely:

SARS-CoV-2 can survive on surfaces, including paper for some time. One study suggested that in controlled laboratory conditions infectious SARS-CoV-2 can be detected for up to 3 hours on printing paper. However, survival time depends on a range of conditions (and in real-life settings likely to be lower).

The following points should be taken into consideration when distributing IEC materials:

  1. Make sure that any staff involved in producing or distributing leaflets are not currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

  2. Before printing of IEC materials commence, wash hands thoroughly with soap. After printing, take the leaflets out of the printer and put the printed leaflets directly into a sealable plastic bag or folder (e.g. a ziplock bag or paper envelope) so that they are ready for distribution.

  3. If you need to organise the printed IEC materials in any way (e.g. stapling), make sure that you clean the surface you will work on with a disinfectant before starting. You should also wear a facemask while you are handling the materials.

  4. Give each staff member a set of leaflets in the sealed bag or folder and encourage them to reseal the bag between distribution locations. Only one staff member should handle the leaflets from their assigned zip-locked bag or sealed folder.

  5. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment and maintain physical distancing throughout the distribution period and avoid going into any homes or buildings.

  6. A safe way to decontaminate the printed IEC materials before distribution is to leave them in a clean sealed space and keep them there, untouched for 24 hrs.

  7. Communities might rightfully be sceptical about receiving printed materials because of the risk of surface transmission. You can leave the material for them on an infrequently touched surface and advise them to allow 24 hrs before picking up to read or share. Be ready to explain the reasons for your recommendation.

Want to learn more about the production and distribution of communications materials?

Editor's note

Review: Kondwani Chidziwisano, Ammar Fawzi and Elli Leontsini

Last update: 06.07.2020

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