From Football to Puppets: The Power of Strategic Communication


Since COVID-19 emerged over three years ago, countries all over the world have strived to prevent the spread of the virus and promote vaccination. Bangladesh is no exception. The government and various agencies have been working tirelessly to make sure everyone is safe and protected.

But promoting COVID-19 vaccination is not easy. Some people are hesitant or skeptical, which is where strategic communication campaigns play a role. Over the past year, USAID’s Breakthrough ACTION project has developed unique enter-education approaches for COVID-19 prevention and vaccination promotion: a river boat, football matches, and puppet shows, to name a few.

Picture a boat cruising down the river, promoting COVID-19 vaccination in remote areas of Bangladesh, where transportation is limited. This boat has served as a floating billboard and stage to spread the word about vaccination to students, teachers, and parents via folk songs and educational shows.

I was walking by the river when I suddenly heard drums playing. As I looked towards the water, I was surprised to see a group of people singing folk songs about COVID-19 vaccines from a boat! I loved the show and learnt my nine-year-old sister could get vaccinated. I will be going to her school for registration soon!

– Shapla, 14-year-old girl, Jhalokathi District

A girls’ football team in Shariatpur district, Bangladesh. Credit: Breakthrough ACTION

In another remote area, where vaccination rates were also low, Breakthrough ACTION organized football matches and road shows, taking advantage of excitement around the 2022 FIFA World Cup to amplify messages about vaccination. The matches attracted huge crowds. Vehicles, decorated with educational banners, broadcasted announcements of upcoming matches, providing yet another innovative channel for raising awareness about the benefits and availability of COVID-19 vaccination.

Finally, Breakthrough ACTION and Jolputul Puppet Studios teamed up to organize six puppet shows in yet another district. The project designed these shows to appeal to students, their parents, teachers, and school maintenance committees. Before the puppet shows began, the children sang their favorite songs and recited poems. The colorful and entertaining shows conveyed important information about COVID-19 vaccination in a fun and engaging way.

Students watch a puppet show at the Noluapara Government Primary School in Bangladesh. Credit: Breakthrough ACTION

We sang so many songs! And when the puppet show kicked off, it was an absolute blast! We learnt so much! Now, we are registering for COVID-19 vaccine through our school.

– Mita, 8-year-old child, Netrokona District

Written by: Rakhshindah Akhtar, Program Officer, Breakthrough ACTION