“Let’s remain focused. The people of Uganda have the power to control the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda.
Dr. Rugunda made the remarks on November 25, 2020, while addressing a press conference on the implementation of the Community Engagement Strategy(CES) for the COVID19 response.
“The strategy recognizes that the pandemic is here,” said Dr. Rugunda, and cautioned strongly against complacency among the population. “We are concerned at the rate of infection and deaths and we are also concerned about the level of complacency. COVID-19 is not in the past tense. It is very much with us,” added Dr. Rugunda
Uganda is now in Phase IV of the pandemic with widespread community transmission reported across the country. As of November 20, 2020, a total of 18,496 cumulative cases and 186 deaths had been confirmed by the Ministry of Health.
The decision to develop and implement CES was endorsed by President Yoweri Museveni during meetings with the National Taskforce for COVID-19 control at State House Entebbe on August, 28 and September 2, 2020, respectively. The development and coordination of the CES were led by a Sub-Committee chaired by Prof. Francis Omaswa, who is also the Executive Director of the African Center for Global Health and Social Transformation. The subcommittee is under the Technical intersectoral Committee of the National Taskforce.
The strategy seeks to engage communities, beginning with individuals at the household level, to take action in the fight against the pandemic. The overall goal is that all people in Uganda are aware, empowered, and are participating actively in the prevention and control of COVID-19 as both a duty and a right, using existing structures, systems, and resources as much as possible. This is underpinned by the principle that individuals have the primary responsibility for maintaining their own health and that of their families and communities. They are supported, where necessary, by the skills, knowledge, and technology of the professionals.
Dr. Rugunda said CES will ensure that infections do not occur in the community and if they do, will enable prompt identification, testing, treatment, and rehabilitation as needed.
The implementation of CES borrows strongly the lessons from the Intersectoral Collaboration project on integrated people-centered primary health care in Ngora District. The Ngora model is implemented by ACHEST in partnership with Ngora District Local Government and MOH from August 2020 to January 2021.
Accordingly, the Government of Uganda has, with immediate effect, directed all district local government leaders including the RDCs, LCV chairpersons, CAOs and District Health Officers to spearhead the exercise of establishing COVID-19 taskforces in all the villages of their respective districts. The leaders will work through existing structures under their respective ministries and use minimal resources to ensure the establishment of the village COVID-19 taskforces. The Ministry of Health is also working with the Ministry of Finance on financing modalities for the strategy.
The task force established in every village in Uganda is expected to support the national response to the pandemic, Local Government Minister, Raphael Magezi told journalists.
“Our commitment is to ensure that CES succeeds. Local leaders must take charge. We want votes, but from people who are healthy and alive,” said Magezi, as he outlined the role of an intersectoral village taskforce and how they can work with village health teams and LCs to promote good health and disease prevention; and the need for vigilance in the fight against the pandemic.
Prof. Omaswa noted that responsibility begins with an individual. “It is not the job of Government to tell you to stop catching COVID-19. If you catch COVID-19, it is you who will die.”
The State Minister for Primary Health Care, Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu, highlighted the importance of good nutrition and physical activity in boosting immunity.
Other speakers at the press conference were World Health Organization Country Representative Dr. Yonas Tegegn, Uganda Red Cross Secretary-General Robert Kwesiga, and Dr. James Kiyengo who represented the Chairperson of the Technical Intersectoral Committee on COVID-19. Also present was the Deputy Prime Minister, Moses Ali.