Community engagement for sustainable COVID-19 prevention in Uganda | Enabel - Belgian Development Agency

Community engagement for sustainable COVID-19 prevention

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Although Uganda has managed to keep the Covid-19 infection rate relatively low, mainly by closing down the borders of the country, the Ugandan health Ministry fears that this may not be sustainable on the long term due to the porous borders. That’s why the government also focusses on preventive measures to contain the spread.

Placing the population at the centre of the fight against the pandemic - according to experts - remains the most effective and sustainable way of preventing this spread. The World Health Organisation instituted a number of preventive measures, washing hands with soap and running water is especially emphasised. Each person must make it a personal responsibility to frequently wash hands, maintain a social distance, and wear mask among others. 

But in Uganda, the handwashing rate is one of the lowest in the world. According to the WHO, in 2017, only 2 out 10 people had handwashing facilities at home. Even when water is available, people don’t always wash their hands. The culture of shaking hands also poses a threat for a fast spread of the virus. So investing in behaviour change communication is crucial.

National risk communication strategy  

The Ugandan Ministry of Health identified communication as an enabler for preventive behaviour. A national risk communication strategy was hence developed to guide interaction with citizens. 

Although Uganda is experienced in fighting deadly illnesses, for instance when the bordering DR Congo was recently hit by Ebola, the current strategy to contain the spread of Covid-19 has faced implementation challenges due to underfunding. 

With many competing priorities such as purchase of testing equipment and personal protective equipment for front line workers, the Ugandan government could only provide a portion of the funds the Ministry requested to fight the virus over a six month period.  

Enabel steps-in to support

Enabel has been assisting the country’s health and education systems for over 10 years. We therefore decided to step up in the fight against corona and support the Ministry of Health with the roll-out of the national risk communication strategy. 

We provide technical and financial support to run countrywide Covid-19 information messages on television, radio stations and online media. These messages or shared in English and different regional languages such as Lugbara, Rutoro, Luganda and Acholi. 

Behaviour change interventions of this kind are paramount to slow down further spread of the pandemic.

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