Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic was first reported in Uganda in March 2020, GOAL has been spreading awareness through messaging campaigns on prevention and treatment of the disease in the eastern and northern parts of the country.
In both areas, GOAL works in districts neighbouring other countries, including South Sudan and Kenya. In these districts, infections are usually higher than in the interior districts, due to cross-border movements.
The GOAL team in the field includes humanitarians with the expertise to help prevent these higher rates of infection.
Among the humanitarian workers is Farouk Batambuze, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) Officer with GOAL Uganda. He works tirelessly to ensure the community members in the eastern districts of Bugiri and Namayingo have enough information to stay healthy and avoid catching the deadly virus.
Farouk works with GOAL’s Sustainable Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (SWASH) project, a programme funded by Irish Aid.
Farouk says: “I work closely with the communities to help them build resilience and prevent hygiene related diseases, which now unfortunately include Covid-19. One way is through regular radio talk-shows, where we are trying to spread awareness of Covid-19 prevention and to de-mistify rumours surrounding Covid-19 vaccinations. We also carry out community outreach campaigns and meetings about the disease.”
“It’s a challenge to work across both districts, as I need to be on top of many things like WASH and Covid-19 interventions. It’s busy but very rewarding. I have seen people changing their behavours, especially on washing their hands frequently, which has made a big impact.”
The impact of Covid-19 in Uganda
With a population of over 40 million people, the country has current cumulative cases of 123,445 with over 96,083 recoveries and 3,152 deaths. Uganda has also had repeated lockdowns due to the virus and this has especially impacted communities economically.
“Covid-19 has destroyed many gains we have worked for in these communities. We are working to ensure the people themselves come up with innovative and resilient ways to ensure communities are safe while re-engaging in economic activities to sustain their livelihoods.”
One of those methods is to encourage households, including those with small businesses, to each have a ‘tippy tap’ at their entrance. This involves the use of local materials such as jerrycans strapped with a string and small stick which a person steps on to let water flow without touching and potentially contaminating the container.
In Bugiri and Namayingo, Farouk is working to ensure that communities embrace the tippy taps as a sustainable solution to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and other diseases.
A humanitarian at heart
Farouk is a humanitarian at heart, who wants to see communities thrive in all aspects. He is looking forward to seeing an end to this pandemic, to freely interact and better connect with communities, and to re-assure them that there is always hope.
“It gives me great joy to see communities free of preventable water borne and hygiene related diseases. I always tell community members that we need to be resilient by finding local solutions to our problems if we indeed want to move forward sustainably.”