In the face of COVID-19: Infectious Diseases Institute – Makerere is empowering communities to fight COVID-19

Religious leaders in Dzaipi Sub-county displaying their action plan during a dialogue meeting on 10th May 2021 at Dzaipi Sub-County Headquarters, Adjumani district.

Pursuant of our vision (A health Africa, free from the burden of infectious diseases) and mission -to strengthen health systems in Africa, with a strong emphasis on infectious diseases, through research and capacity development), Infectious Diseases Institute has been on top of the game since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda. Currently, IDI’s funding from The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is implementing the ANC/iCCM project in Adjumani and Moyo districts of West Nile.

The goal of this project is to sustain or increase the appropriate and safe provision of integrated Community Case management of three key childhood diseases including Malaria, Pneumonia and diarrhea (iCCM), and Antenatal care (ANC) for Pregnant and women of reproductive age. This project was designed in response to severe disruption of the provision and use of these services by COVID-19. In the wake of COVID-19, community members and child caretakers feared to take their sick children to VHTs for fear of contracting COVID-19. VHTs also could not freely attend to sick children for fear of the same. Pregnant women and women of reproductive also shunned away antenatal services for fear of contracting COVID-19 from health facilities. The ultimate consequence would be feared maternal mortalities and high child mortalities.
To date, IDI with funding from CDC is implementing high-quality and evidence-based Social and Behavior Change (SBC) interventions including community dialogues with a primary focus of empowering communities in Adjumani and Moyo districts to take decisions and actions that will help to stop community transmission of COVID-19. Our community dialogues have been used as a platform for communities in Adjumani and Moyo districts to reflect on and identify their own locally available resources on which they can leverage to tackle COVID-19.

Our mission is to support communities in Adjumani and Moyo to become self-reliant and employ technologically appropriate and feasible innovations to deal with their health problems using their locally available resources with less dependence on external support from government and other development partners. A great number of community leaders including religious and School leaders have embraced this approach and are adopting it in their respective settings. Through these dialogues, communities have realized that the war against COVID-19 will decisively be fought and won by themselves. Communities can now play a collective role in enforcing COVID-19 prevention and control measures and work on innovations including handwashing facilities, making liquid soap, making facemasks, and passing bylaws for example against night discos.
The author of this article is an IDI/CDC SBC Technical officer working under the IDI/CDC ANC/iCCM West Nile Health Project.