It is a huge milestone for Uganda’s health sector.
The country has launched the National Community Engagement Strategy (CES) for COVID-19 response.
The strategy seeks to ensure that all people in Uganda are aware, empowered, and actively participating in the prevention and control of the outbreak of COVID-19 as both a duty and a right; using existing structures, systems, and resources.
It is premised on the principle that good health begins with individuals, their households, and communities.
The strategy will be rolled with immediate effect, starting with the COVID-19 hotspots in Kampala City and the border districts. It comes as the country is dealing with Phase IV of the pandemic. More than 10,691 cumulative cases and 90 deaths had been registered as of October 20, 2020.
If well implemented, the initiative would automatically have a ripple effect even long after COVID-19 -- by strengthening Uganda’s health system, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) and Universal Health Coverage (UHC); while at the same time institutionalizing the Intersectoral Collaboration and the Whole of Society approach.
The strategy, endorsed by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, was officially launched on October 20, 2020, by Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda.
Also in attendance were: Deputy Prime Minister Moses Ali, State Minister for Primary Health Care Dr. Joyce Kaducu Moriku, State Minister for Primary Education Rosemary Sseninde, State Minister for Defense Rtd. Col Charles Okello-Engola, Kampala City Council Authority Executive Director Dorothy Kisaka, among other officials.
In his address, Dr. Rugunda gave a chronology of high-level engagements between the National Task Force on Covid-19 and the Head of State that led to the formation of the strategy. Notably, the Technical Intersectoral Committee (TISC) was formed to enforce implementation efforts, and a Community Engagement sub-committee chaired by ACHEST’s Executive Director Prof. Francis Omaswa was formed to draft the Community Engagement Strategy (CES) and implementation arrangements. The diverse sub-committee comprises of key players from different government agencies. Civil society representatives from ACHEST and Red Cross Uganda are also on board.
“We are formally calling upon and handing over ownership and responsibility to individual Ugandans, to control this pandemic. We are giving power to the people to defeat COVID19 by ensuring that the virus will not spread among them; that they are each other’s keeper”, said Dr. Rugunda.
He expressed optimism that the full implementation of the Strategy will institutionalize integrated People-Centered Primary Health Care (IPCPHC) as defined in the Alma Ata Declaration of 1978.
“Through this approach, Uganda’s health system will be much better, even after the pandemic,” he stressed.
The Prime Minister particularly applauded the Ngora District Local Government IPCPHC model as a good example of what happens when communities take charge of their lives. The project that is currently being implemented by ACHEST has seen improvements in the indices in hygiene, immunization, antenatal care among others.
“Early lessons in Ngora show how quickly lives get better when communities are in charge. The centrality people play is important. Do not wait for the Ministry of Health wherever you are. Be bold. Follow the SOPs for COVID19 prevention,” said Dr. Rugunda
Prof. Omaswa described CES is a major milestone in the history of health development in Uganda. It has been a long journey coming from 1987 when the Raphael Owor Commission, appointed by the then Health Minister Dr. Rugunda recommended community mobilization as the center of the health system in Uganda.
Prof. Omaswa stated that this was also an opportunity to implement to scale the existing multi-sectoral community health plans articulated in the National Health Policy and Strategic Plan launched over 20 years ago. “The return on investment will be much higher if people take charge of their lives.”
The State Minister for Primary Health Care Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu highlighted the importance of the country building on past experiences in fighting epidemics like Ebola and HIV. She committed full support from the Ministry of Health.
The Chairperson of the Technical Intersectoral Committee on COVID-19 Major Gen. Geoffrey Muheesi said the lead enforcers of the strategy will be the Village Health Teams (VHTs). They will maintain health registers and work with schools, cultural and religious leaders, and CSOs. Full-time community health workers will be paid a monthly allowance of 100,000 Uganda Shillings. VHTs will also be provided with necessary tools to do their work such as face masks, soap, sanitizers, thermometer, uniforms, smartphone, umbrella, gumboots, and relevant medical supplies.
Compiled by Carol Natukunda, Communications Specialist, ACHEST