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MAK dons query govt’s COVID-19 community interventions


Everyone of ages 6 and above moving out into the public is encouraged to have on a face mask so as to prevent spread of COVID-19. File photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Makerere University lecturers have pointed out that there has not been enough engagement of communities in efforts to prevent coronavirus disease warning this might undo the milestones so far made in prevention.

The lecturers were attending a virtual meeting on Wednesday to assess what government has so far done to curb community transmission of coronavirus disease–COVID-19.

The experts including public health professionals, behavioral scientists and experts in humanities punched holes in the ongoing rapid community assessment survey saying that questions posed to participants don’t inquire into what people think or how much they know about the disease as questions rotate around whether someone tests positive or negative.

Dr Joseph Matovu a behavioral scientist and senior research associate at the School of Public Health said the COVID-19 fighting team has instead imported measures that are being implemented in other countries with different systems wrongly thinking that they can work here.

He says that perceptions of the public have not been captured.

Prof. Sarah Ssali, the Dean of the School of Women and Gender Studies said the task force is highly science-based calling for a behavioral study to establish what the community knows. For her, with appropriate information and communication, issues of disappearing positive truck drivers would not arise.

She recommends bringing on board specialists in the humanities such as mass communicators saying that epidemics like this with no specific pointers of when they will end require a mix of skill sets to handle.

But, the Ministry of Health says there’s no threat of community transmission. They recently announced that there is no community transmission of the disease following partial release of the rapid survey results having reached more than 20,000 people.

The experts find this revelation questionable as there is no defined approach on how they get the people in the community that they target for tests.

However when these concerns were put to Richard Kabanda, the Ag. Commissioner for  Health Services in charge of Health Promotion, Education and Communication at the Ministry of Health, he said some of these flaws are being rectified as initially they rushed into everything for fear of being caught offside. He says they are now realizing that the disease is going to be around for a long time.

He says they are now moving from exclusively involving scientists and technocrats in the response to include community members, a reason they have reached out to local council leaders to help with contact tracing.

Kabanda says that they are also making changes in communication, moving from scientific research to involving the community itself, a reason as to why they picked on socialite Bad Black to reach out to sex workers dealing with the highest risk group the truck drivers.

He said on Tuesday, they signed another young celebrity Fresh Kid to reach out to the children.

But Matovu says some of their messaging has been stigmatizing to the key population with complaints of truck drivers being chased from certain areas among others. He says there should be messages which allay fears and tell the public that truck drivers are not entirely responsible for the disease like it has been painted.



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