In Uganda, there have been epidemic outbreaks such as Cholera in the Eastern parts of the country in 2003, Marburg in 2012 and 2014 and Ebola outbreak which was first reported in 1979. It was during the late 90s and early 2000s that the epidemic outbreak became a common norm in Uganda. However it has been noted that Ebola hit the most with thousands of people dying in Northern Uganda and parts of Western Uganda.
In 2009 a case was also reported in Southwestern Uganda near the border with the DRC. The cases later increased both in Uganda and DRC. This was attributed to the coexistent relationship between the people in DRC and in Uganda including cross border trade, to access markets and farmland.
In 2014, an outbreak of Ebola virus disease occurred in the DRC. Genemo-sequencing has shown that this outbreak was not related to the 2014 West Africa Ebola virus outbreak but was of the same EBOV species. It began in August 2014 and was declared over in November of that year, after 42 days without any new cases. It was the seventh Ebola virus outbreak in the DRC. Even though no cases were reported in Uganda, it does not rule out the spread of the disease to Uganda. On the other hand, it was an indication that mechanisms need to be put in place to combat the outbreaks as and when they strike.
Following such outbreaks of Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers (VHFs), the need to raise awareness on them and to build the capacity of duty bearers and community members on how to respond to, and mitigate epidemic outbreaks arose in Uganda.
It’s against this background that ACFODE in partnership with the Government of Uganda under the Ministry of Health and with support from WE EFFECT launched a new project titled “Rapid Response to Epidemics Outbreak (RARE).”
Mr. Dembe David Beryeza, the CAO Ntoroko district and Mr. Richard Makumbi, a Board Member with ACFODE preside over the launch of the project.
The overall goal of the project is to raise awareness and promote behavior change through public information, health education and social mobilization, and to strengthen coordination and harmonization of the preparedness and response for viral Hemorrhagic fevers in Uganda (VHFs) in accordance with the established World Health Organization (WHO) road map and other guidelines.
The project is being implemented in the districts of Kisoro and Ntoroko. In Kisoro district, the project is being implemented in Busanza, Chahi, Muramba and Murora sub counties; while in Ntorko it is being implemented in Bweramule, Rwebisengo, Butungama, and Kanara sub counties.
Speaking at the project launch in Kisoro, Mr. Kalemera Alfred, the Asst. CAO observed that, “As a district, we are very grateful for ACFODE’s continued support through different interventions especially on issues to do with prevention of gender and sexual violence, and now epidemic outbreaks,” while in Ntoroko, Mr. Dembe David Beryeza, the District CAO noted that, “we are very appreciative for having been chosen to benefit from this project given the fact that Ntoroko is a border district. This puts a lot of pressure on its resources. This coupled with cross border movements often result in epidemic outbreaks.”
While giving his remarks, Mr. Richard Makubi, a Board Member with ACFODE observed that although ACFODE’s main objective is to empower women and girls, the organization had decided to venture into the health sector because when epidemics occur, they strike women more frequently than the men.
“As outbreaks progress, women tend to be disproportionately affected. For instance, they accounted for 55 to 60 percent of the deceased in the current epidemic in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, according to a UNICEF report,” he noted.
In both districts, participants were made aware by the District Health Officers of the fact that the project would largely concrete on awareness creation and sensitization as means of attaining behavioral and attitude change amongst masses. Furthermore, it was observed that the project would build the capacity of health workers so as to strengthen disease surveillance for early case detection and harmonization of the preparedness and response for Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers (VHFs).
Participants engage with materials on Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers (VHFs)
To be targeted were the District Health officials such as the DHEs and DSFPs, Border immigration officials, members of Village Health Teams, social cultural leaders, local politicians, women & youth groups, Epidemic Preparedness Response (EPR) committees, like minded organizations, and other influential people within the districts. These would be engaged in the capacity building sessions, during sensitization campaigns, during community meetings and in the distribution of BCC materials.
The comparative advantage of this would be critical in addressing complex community development initiatives from foreclosure prevention, to sustainable energy for effective response to epidemic outbreaks.
Accordingly, participants pledged to support and actively, participate in the project activities and hoped that in future, ACFODE and WE EFFECT would consider extending the project to more sub counties and even opening a field office in Ntoroko District.
In both districts, the LC V chairmen officiated over the closure of the one day inception meetings. They thanked the presenters for their enriching and educational presentations. They also appreciated the participants for their contributions during the meetings, and challenged them to work together towards attaining development for all.
RARE Project Coordinator