Uganda Red Cross Implements the Community Engagement Strategy on COVID-19

Sunday, 19 September 2021 18:24
Community member washing hands at URCS donated handwashing facility
in Bugolobi market

Uganda Red Cross Implements the Community Engagement Strategy on COVID-19 With positive cases and deaths mounting every day, and hospitals and the health care system stretched to capacity, it fell to alternative means of action to curb the spread of the virus into the communities of Uganda.

Community engagement is central to any public health intervention. Its importance is even more significant during public health emergencies. And this became more so in Uganda’s fight against COVID-19, when on 8th June 2021, a record number of 1,438 people tested positive for COVID-19 in a single day. The second wave of the pandemic was confirmed in Uganda and a 42-day lockdown initiated to curb its spread in the communities.

During the experience of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020, Government of Uganda mounted an early vigorous and proactive response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, by undertaking a number of measures to prevent its spread. One of these measures included the establishment of the National COVID-19 Task Force, through which a National Community Engagement Strategy (CES) was drafted. This Community Engagement Strategy was to help raise awareness, build trust and enforce compliance with COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). For this to be achieved, behavioral change is needed at a grass-root level.

URCS Volunteers conducting risk communication in the community

Empowering individuals and communities is based on the premise that good health starts with, and is created by individuals, their families and the communities, and is supported, where necessary, by skills, knowledge and technology of the professionals. Individuals have the primary responsibility for maintaining their own health and that of their communities facilitating and ensuring that infections are minimized and do not occur in the community and if they occur, will be promptly identified, tested, treated and rehabilitated as needed.

To enable this empowerment at grass-root level, over 2,000 Village COVID Task Forces have been formed across the country, that include Uganda Red Cross members, Local Council members , Cultural and Religious leaders, and Village Health Team members.

The main functions of the Village COVID Task Force were to conduct community based surveillance and case detection including deaths, community case management including supporting self-isolation, community based drug distribution and referrals as appropriate, community contact-tracing and reporting, community shielding of vulnerable members, strategic communication, creating awareness, information and education to gain and hold the trust of the communities.

“We have so far constructed 15 village task forces in Entebbe, where VHTs and some of the local council committee members were trained on how to go into the villages and visit homes and teach them on how Home Based Care (HBC) is working. What caregivers can do to help those patients on HBC and how they can reduce the spread of COVID to other family members”, says Davitah Nuwashaba Branch Manager;

“We reach out to house to house educating people about COVID-19, the signs and symptoms, where to get help and what to do to stay safe as well as supporting those who might be positive or those who seek testing and treatment services and where they can find them”, says Prize Tayebwa, URCS Branch Manager for Kampala West.

Village Task Force team meeting to plan for risk communication and
community engagement.

Since its roll out of the Community Engagement Strategy in February 2021 in the greater Kampala Area including Wakiso and Mukono districts, URCS has since reached over 359,455 people with the COVID-19 behavioral change messages.

Handwashing is crucial in the fight against COVID-19. While conducting community surveillance, the VTF teams were able to identify communal areas that needing handwashing facilities and disinfection assistance. Over 200 handwashing facilities and tippy taps have been installed in market places and facilities in the greater Kampala area as well as WakisoDistricts.

“Recently a case of COVID-19 was reported at the Mapeera Bakateyamba Home in Rubaga, so when we accessed the area there was a need for vaccination because these are very elderly people who are vulnerable. We also went and fumigated the area, disinfected it and then we requested for support of hand washing facilities, which included tanks and buckets and soap as well as masks for those who take care of the elderly vulnerable people”, says Prize Tayebwa, Branch Manager Kampala West.

The Village Task Force Teams have been able to monitor the different cases of COVID-19 undergoing Home Based Care and also address over 45,000 rumors and misinformation that are hindering the fight against COVID-19.

Uganda is a leader in preparedness and emergency response in the control of infectious disease outbreaks for over decades, and an example to other countries all over the world. This preparedness and community engagement response is acknowledged to have successfully contained emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases including COVID-19. Because of this, Uganda was accordingly ranked as the best performer in Africa by the Lancet Review.

Read 98 times Last modified on Sunday, 19 September 2021 18:26

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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