COVID-19 has affected millions of people around the world. For many of us, this is the first time we’ve experienced anything like it. But for our friends and incredible partners in sub-Saharan Africa, unfortunately, serious health concerns like these are all too familiar.
While COVID-19 still presents a serious threat to them and the people they serve, our partners have been proactively fighting to contain the disease in their corners of the world.
And we are excited to highlight the efforts of one such partner to show you how, despite all of our current challenges, we can still band together to help. Partners for Community Transformation (PaCT) has been one of Uganda’s leaders in health for some time now, and they are going above and beyond to proactively address this new pandemic.
The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Uganda on March 21st with 55 cases confirmed today but no deaths. The government has introduced preventative measures such as prohibiting flights, public transport, border crossing, and public gatherings larger than 5 people, even for church, school, media conferences, and markets. This is because the Ministry of Health is focused on preventing any cases of the virus from entering the country and ensuring that all existing cases are tested and contained. There is an urgent need for equipment -especially personal protection equipment (PPE)- for health workers, community sensitization to the pandemic, hand-washing facilities, and hygiene promotion to help curb the spread. The price of basic essentials such as food, sanitizers, and protective gear have gone up drastically, soap alone has tripled in cost.
As one of the key health organizations in its region, PaCT has been brought on to a task force with the Ministry of Health and sub-task forces of district health departments to stop the spread of the virus and handle existing cases in the Mityana and Mubende Districts where PaCT operates. They are also receiving help from the World Health Organization (WHO), Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) Action Plan Guidance COVID-19 Preparedness and Response, and the Uganda Ministry of Health Guidelines on COVID-19 to aid them in their fight. Existing PaCT staff are being trained on management and community education for prevention of the disease and some additional emergency response personnel will also be added to support full implementation of resolutions.
One issue that became quickly apparent is the lack of accurate information being dispersed among the people of Uganda. One thing that PaCT is pursuing to stem this is a regular radio talk show and localized radio spots where people can call in and ask questions about COVID-19, how to be treated, and how to prevent its spread.
These radio broadcasts are estimated to have reached 38 villages and over 21,000 people thus far.
However, outside the country’s capital of Kampala, including the districts PaCT serves, there is limited access to media and information, including radio. This means that the population there isn’t aware of COVID-19 or how to prevent its spread. It is very difficult to effectively distribute information in these rural parts of the country. While all materials produced by the Ministry of Health are written in English, much of the population is illiterate and doesn’t understand English. To address these challenges, PaCT has also been doing drives through these communities playing a message over a megaphone which was recorded by staff and members of the District Health Department. The message talks about COVID-19, its symptoms, how to prevent it, and where to call if they possess these symptoms. Nine of these communication drives have been done thus far, covering 257 villages and a total population of over 114,000 people.
In addition, PaCT is making extra efforts to visit high-risk households including those with family members aged 65 years or older and families who have members living with HIV. They have reached 196 households, providing handwashing facilities, PPE, and information about COVID-19. Since each household has multiple people in it, they are making sure to reach every person in the house with this information, and have made contact with 1,855 individuals so far. Print directives from the President are being translated into local languages and placed wherever possible: health facilities, households, community centers, roadsides, and more.
Besides all of this, the PaCT team is working to ensure that health workers are adequately supplied, giving away 200 sanitizers, and buying ten mattresses and disinfectant for the COVID isolation center. Fifteen task force leaders have been given minutes for their phones so that they can communicate with team members in the field, educating communities or collecting samples for the Ministry of Health to test. Since many public hospitals are ill-equipped with the basic equipment and facilities to manage COVID-19, the pandemic would be devastating if it were to reach these areas of Uganda.
However, thanks to PaCT’s fast action and problem-solving at all levels of the pandemic, they plan on continuing to monitor and treat COVID-19 in coordination with the Ministry of Health and District Health Department in order to avert devastation on a large scale.