Communication as Aid; Using music and drama to disseminate Ebola prevention messages in Kabarole district, South Western Uganda.

Friday, 14 December 2018 08:38 Written by
A scene from the play portryaing the safe and diginified bruial (SDB) process

As Ebola remains a major health threat Uganda, a number of preparedness interventions have been put in place to avert the epidemic.The Ebola outbreak broke out in neighboring DR-Congo in August 2018. Given the proximity of Uganda to North Kivu province, where a number of  people have died of the same disease, Uganda remains among the countries with the highest risk of getting Ebola.

Since December 2017, Uganda started receiving refugees from DR-Congo and with the confirmation of the  Ebola, Uganda has been on toes while guarding its porous borders from letting in people with  Ebola. 

The Ministry of Health in Uganda has marked 7 districts ranked at high risk due to their proximity to the high risk areas in DR-Congo with Ebola. Among those in Uganda include Kabarole, Kasese, Bundibugyo, Bunyangabu, Kanungu, Kisoro and Ntoroko.  A lot of trade goes on in these areas and this makes them stand higher chances of exposure with people from Congo whom are highly susceptible. 

Uganda Red Cross in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health, WHO, UNICEF Uganda, World Food program, the International Federation of the Red Cross / Crescent have come together to support the Ebola preparedness as a means of preventing Ebola but also managing it should there be any cases.

Grace Safari, the group leader taking part in the Ebola Drama process

Over 180 Red Cross volunteers have been trained and deployed to conduct risk communication and social mobilization in all the 7 high risk districts through  conducting home visits, engaging communities through community gatherings, sharing IEC materials on Ebola, screening all entrants at boarder points,  conducting hygiene promotion among other interventions

In Kabarole district, music and drama is an innovative health approach to passing on Ebola messages to the local communities. It is a faster, effective and easier way of engaging communities to understand Ebola, how it is spread, how to avoid it, until the cycle of burial is managed should one die.

Uganda Red Cross mobilized a group of community members, women and men to start up a drama group. These compose Ebola related songs and plays and perform in their communities. The group in Harugongo Sub County is led by Mrs. Grace Safari 51, a dedicated Red Cross community based volunteer.

“We started in September after a thorough training by the Red Cross. We then started recruiting members who had the various talents to help us put together songs and a drama which we would take to the communities. Our music and plays basically remind people that Ebola is real and encourage them to avoid it through the prevention messages we include.” Said Safari

Harugongo drama group has 25 members so far, two writers who are also the choir leaders, five instrumentalists, dancers and other group members. They have so far written 10 songs about Ebola and one play. In their songs, they emphasize how to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus, how to handle someone with Ebola symptoms (suspected case) and how to handle a dead-body and burial of the Ebola victim. According to the group these are some of the key messages that the communities need to learn about Ebola.

Ibrahim baguma emotonally singing a song about a young a a man who was warned against
Ebola but did not heed.He in the end lost his life to the killer disease

“Through music and drama, people understand the message so fast and easily and this has helped a lot. We sing and act in our own local language which the communities appreciate very much. The children have found our messages very clear and interesting and they enjoy seeing us perform. It is always good to know that the children are well prepared for such an outbreak and have the knowledge to prevent it” she added.  

The group meets at a local church in the e sub county. The church helps them with some instruments and seats to use during their performances. Ibrahim Baguma 34, is one of the writers in the group. He is passionate about music and grew up dreaming of becoming a great artist who would sing to improve the lives of people in his society. Ibrahim never went to school all his life but found perfect joy in writing songs and serving in his local church. He believes through music and drama he is able to reach the educated people who he wouldn’t access 

"Otherwise. “I did not go to school. I cannot just go around telling educated people about Ebola. These are doctors, teachers and nurses, who am I to talk to them about these things? But through music and drama, I attract their attention and they appreciate me and the message. 

Ibrahim is 34, he never went to school but he uses his talent in music and drama to reach
even the most educated with Ebola prevention messages.

It gives me great joy to know that my songs help transform my community and help my people prepare for this killer endemic” said Baguma. According to the District Health Office in Kabarole district, this is one of the greatest ideas in place to fight and avoid the spread of Ebola because music is regarded as the biggest form of entertainment. It gathers big numbers of people at once. 

“Whenever drama is staged in a place, people will always come. It is a form of entertainment and the message is still carried home. Through this intervention, people can watch and listen at the same time which further drives the message. We have put a technical person in place to move with the drama to answer all questions that might arise from the audience about Ebola. This therefore allows easy and immediate feedback” said Brian Kisembo, a member of the district health task force in the District-Health-Officer’s office in Kabarole.

The role played by the drama team so far has been enormous and much appreciated by the communities and the authorities. From the plays and songs, people have been able to understand the symptoms of Ebola and become more precautions. No wonder it was after a drama show that the first suspected case in the district was identified in November, this year.

A scene from the Play portraying Mr. Wamatooke a hunter after hunting an animal
that spreads Ebola in his home and later on village

“We identified one of the suspected cases when someone, after watching the Ebola drama realized that he had a neighbor with most of the symptoms portrayed in the drama. He walked to us and asked our team to go and check it out. The suspect had indeed travelled from Congo a few weeks back and had not used the official boarder point where screening is done.” said Mr. Kisembo.

According to the Red Cross Ebola team in Kabarole district, it had increasingly become hard to find people in their homes during the door to door interventions and social mobilization. This had to be boosted by an addition of music and drama which can be taken to people at their places of work and in market places.

“We first concentrated on house to house interventions but then we later realized people are not always at home because they do a lot of businesses. we then resorted to using drama. In Uganda,  music is one of the key communication methods that spreads information faster and easily to communities through edutainment.” Said Geoffrey Buzaale, the URCS Ebola focal person Kabarole district.

In August 2018 the Ministry Of Health and W.H.O declared an Ebola outbreak in DR Congo which has so far claimed over 250 people, with 457 more confirmed cases. This has led to intensified preparedness activities around the border areas in Uganda.  The Uganda Red Cross with support from partners continues to scale up Ebola preparedness interventions at all the boarder points with DR-Congo and in communities that are at risk. Uganda has never had any confirmed Ebola case since the fresh outbreak in DR-Congo in August 2018.


Uganda Red Cross launches emergency appeal to support Bududa landslide victims.

Friday, 19 October 2018 13:03 Written by

Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) on 17th October launched an appeal to the general public to raise 1.2 Billion shillings to support victims of the Bududa landslides and other neighboring districts that might be at risk.  This is expected to benefit over 5000 people in the disaster prone districts of the Elgon region; Bududa, Namisindwa, Butalejja, and Manafwa. These battle with effects of climate change almost every year and there is urgent need to prepare for more disasters.

Launching the appeal yesterday at URCS headquarters in Rubaga, the Secretary General Mr. Robert Kwesiga appreciated the government and everyone else who has already tried to help, but emphasized that there is more that still needs to be done “When such disasters happen in Uganda, we as Uganda Red Cross always call upon Ugandans and none Ugandans leaving in Uganda to stand with and support their brothers and sisters without entirely relying on the government. There is no amount of support that is enough, there is always more to be done especially for long term preparations for such occurrences” he said.

According to information from the Uganda National Meteorological authority, heavy rains are still expected in the eastern part of Uganda. This means these districts are still highly exposed to heavier disasters including floods, mudslides, and disease outbreaks. Support raised from this appeal will help Red Cross prepare communities and take on urgent emergency preparedness and response plans to save lives of people.

Uganda Red Cross Secretary General Mr. Robert Kwesiga addressing
in Rubaga yesterday

On disease outbreaks, Kwesiga emphasized that during such emergencies, diseases like cholera are most likely, given the quality of water and the general sanitation “Currently, people are drinking unsafe water, there are no sanitation facilities like latrines, so waste disposal is as bad as you can imagine. There is need for psychosocial support and massive hygiene promotion” he said

The appeal will support families with emergency relief non-food items, temporary shelter for displaced people, health and life saving interventions, hygiene promotion, access to safe and clean water, early warning sensitizations for communities on climate change and potential disease outbreaks, training of more disaster response volunteers, offering pyscho-social support, among other immediate needs.

Uganda Red Cross also pledged to work closely with government during the anticipated relocation of families. Over 900 households are set to be moved to Bulambuli and government has already availed 32 Billion shillings for the relocation. According to Kwesiga, people can’t move with nothing, they have lost everything and need a new start with basic needs and the appeal will seek to raise some of these

“What do we do for those people who lost everything? When you lose a house, all that is within goes with it, clothes, household items and other basic needs. This is the main challenge we are trying to approach as people undergo relocation.” He indicated that any kind of support is welcome whether in kind or financial. Relief items can be delivered at any Red Cross offices across the country and financial assistance will be received on official Red Cross mobile money platforms and the organization’s bank account.

On October 11th, River Suume in Bukalasi Sub County burst its banks causing a massive landslide that buried over 139 households and killed 43 people. About 700 people were affected. 16 are still missing after one week and recue and search teams are still digging the mud in efforts to save them.


Uganda Red Cross takes relief to families affected in the Bududa landslides

Friday, 19 October 2018 03:13 Written by
Hon. Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda handing over some of the relief items from
Red cross

Uganda Red Cross with support from the Belgian Red Cross have been among the first to take relief aid to the families affected in the Thursday landslides in Suume Parish, Bukalasi Sub County-Bududa district. Following last week’s heavy down pours in the area, River Suume burst its banks forcing large volumes of water, and rolling boulders down the slopes. These destroyed and washed over 139 households and 43 lives have been lost.

The distribution happened on Sunday during prayers held for the victims at Bukalasi playground in Bududda. The Hon. Prime minister launched the distribution and appreciated Red Cross for always working with government to support during such emergencies

“Our friends in the Red Cross have always been with us, running to rescue people in such emergencies and giving a hand like they are doing today. We identify with the affected families and hope that this small assistance helps you cope with this trying situation” said Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda, the Prime Minister of Uganda.

Items worth Ush 50M were given out and these included; Soap, Blankets, tarpaulins, kitchen sets, jerry cans and so on. Over 680 people benefited from the distribution

Ango John, 14, lost his Uncle but was happy to receive the items

“I lost everything. I and my brother were running a shop with motorcycle spare parts and other mechanical items. On Thursday afternoon we heard boulders rolling, I was away from the shop as I watched it being smashed and washed by the rolling stones and running water. I thank the lord that my brother who was in the shop managed to run away but survived with terrible injuries that he is still nursing wounds at the hospital. With these items, I can now start afresh” said Lawrence Mlumba, one of the beneficiaries.

A big number of people remain stranded with no homes and property in this area. More bodies are expected to be found and the search and rescue teams are still digging and monitoring the river. A big number of the affected people are children. Ango John is 14 years old and he lost his uncle in the landslide. He was the only adult John stayed with. Today he stays at a nearby health centre since he has no home to go to. He was among the beneficiaries of the relief distribution

“My uncle and our house perished in the mudslides on Thursday. He is the only one I had. I am grateful to the disaster response team who registered me for these things. I at least now have where to start from” said John

According to Irene Nakasiita, the Head Communications at Uganda Red Cross, Red Cross teams have been on ground since the incident happened and have helped compile an assessment report which guided and informed the distribution

Crystal Newman URCS Goodwill Amasador handing over a relief kit to one
of the beneficiaries in Bududa yesterday

“The first body was discovered by one of our community volunteers working with the district search and rescue team. So we have been here from the start. Today we are distributing relief support to the affected families as indicated by the assessment report. Our teams remain on ground to continue the search for the missing persons as well as continuous sensitization of people on issues of climate change, disaster risk reduction and offer psychosocial support during this traumatizing period” said Nakasiita.

Bududa is known among the top disaster prone areas in the country but calls from government for people to relocate have always fallen on deaf ears. In 2010, over 350 people died in this area and hundreds of households were buried. The same happened in 2011 and 2012.

On 17th October, Uganda Red Cross will launch a local emergency appeal to the public to raise 1.5 Billion to further support the affected communities in Bududa


Uganda Red Cross intensifies Ebola Preparedness

Friday, 05 October 2018 07:44 Written by
A Red Cross trained Volunteer registered screened individuals for Ebola a the Congo

At least about 2,000 people are screened daily at the different entry points bordering Uganda and the Democratic of Congo. This number doubles during market days as more people enter Uganda for business, or as more refugees enter Uganda from the Democratic Republic of Uganda.” Says Paul Okot Bitex – Uganda Red Cross Ebola Preparedness Response Coordinator.

On August 1st, 2018, the Ministry of Health in the Democratic Republic of Congo confirmed an outbreak of the Ebola Hemorrhagic fever in North Kivu Province and Ituri regions, about 100km west of Uganda. By September 25th, 2018, about 101 deaths had been registered in the DRC with several cases under investigations as probable. 

Uganda Red Cross in partnership with the Ministry of Health in Uganda and other partners composed a task force to implement Ebola preparedness and readiness efforts to curb the epidemic from spreading into Uganda as the county continues to receive more refugees and other Nationals who keep crossing in and out of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  

A URCS at one of the entry points from Congo. All entrants have to be registered and
screened for Ebola

Uganda Red Cross health response teams have been on ground to handle a number of components which include managing boarder surveillance, temperature screening of all entrants, hygiene promotion (Infection Prevention and Control), Risk Communication, sensitizations in communities and all public gatherings, psychosocial support among other activities. Uganda Red Cross also deployed 3 units of fully equipped ambulances to support any referrals for further management.

“We have deployed over 180 Volunteers in the 7 districts where we are operating. These are full time and are fully involved in all activities. We are working closely with the district health teams under the Ministry of Health arrangements, we are supported by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC DREF) and other partners UNICEF, WFP and World Health Organization (WHO) who have brought on table resources and technical support in all areas. As a Country, we are ready to manage Ebola and the commitment exhibited by the task force is very commendable.” Says Robert Kwesiga – Secretary General, Uganda Red Cross.

A URCS Community volunteer conducting household visit to create awareness about Ebola
prevention in Kisoro

The Uganda Red Cross Volunteers are deployed in Kasese, Bundibugyo, Kisoro, Ntoroko, Bunyangabo, Kanungu and Kabarole districts. These boarders with the Democratic Republic of Congo in the western stretch of Uganda.

There are several Ebola Isolation centres set up to manage suspected cases. For example, in Kasese district, there is one at Bwera hospital which is managed by the Hospital leadership. The Red Cross volunteers support and compliment the efforts of the health workers. 

“The basics are in place and we are ready to receive any suspects. Red Cross has trained teams that support us even if we got a confirmed case, we can manage dignified safe burials.” says Dr. Joyce Kabyanga, the In - Charge of case management team Bwera Hospital in Kasese district, western Uganda.

A URCS Volunteer screening one of the entrants from Congo
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URCS Contacts

Plot 551/555 Rubaga Road.
P.O. Box 494, Kampala Uganda.
Tel:     (256) 414 258701
Tel:     (256) 414 258702
Email: sgurcs@redcrossug.org


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