Social distancing is one of the most important health behaviors limiting the spread of COVID‐19, but people may practice it insufficiently for multiple reasons: they may not believe or realize that community norms have shifted towards support for social distancing, and they may not realize its public health benefits. This project is supporting Mozambique’s effort to promote social distancing, in collaboration with the government’s health research center for the central region. In a representative sample of 3,000 households across three provinces, many of whom were displaced by Cyclone Idai, researchers are evaluating two different messaging approaches to promote social distancing. One emphasizes that others in the community—either prominent individuals or a high share of other households—support social distancing. The other emphasizes social distancing’s public health benefits. Data from high-frequency phone-based surveys will inform the government about how COVID-19-related knowledge, beliefs, and preventative behaviors are changing over time.

Funding for this project was provided by the UK Department for International Development, awarded through IPA's Peace & Recovery Program.

Program Area:
 Beira Operational Research Center at the Ministry of Health, Mozambique
Study Type:
Randomized Evaluation
April-July 2020
Implemented by IPA:
Outcomes of Interest:
Household social distancing behaviors, Perceived social distancing norms, COVID-19 related knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors
Data Collection Mode:
CATI (Computer-assisted telephone interviewing)
Results Status:
See Key Findings from Rounds 1 and 2. Full results will be made available upon project conclusion.
Key Findings:
Round 1 (July 17-August 16, 2020) Key Findings:
  • Household income has dropped by 33% on average since the onset of the pandemic, and 72% of households are food insecure.
  • Respondents show high support for social distancing, but often underestimate their community’s average support for social distancing.
  • Respondents have uneven knowledge about COVID-19 and the government’s pandemic response, giving correct answers to some questions but showing poor knowledge in other areas.
  • Households report following major COVID-19 health recommendations, but also high rates of some false beliefs and non-preventive behaviors, such as meeting up with friends and spraying alcohol or chlorine on the body.
Round 2 (August 26-October 4, 2020) Key Findings:
  • Household income has dropped more than 50% from February 2020, before the onset of the pandemic, to September 2020. 71% of households remain food insecure.
  • Respondents’ perception of their community’s support for social distancing has improved over time, but still underestimates their community’s true support for social distancing.
  • Respondents’ knowledge about COVID-19 has improved over time, especially with regard to the government’s pandemic response, and preventative knowledge.
  • TV and radio are the two most common sources of COVID-19 information. Over time, respondents report hearing about COVID-19 more from religious leaders and NGOs, and less from WhatsApp and ATM messages.