COVID-19 Struggle in Uganda, Africa
Interview with Jolly Kambere, Program Coordinator, Youth Partnership Uganda. You can Donate to Youth Partnership Uganda here.
Intro by editorial board member and reporter Malissa Vazquez: As we at the City Voices media and community building project, based out of New York City, continue to promote, advocate, and educate on behalf of mental health awareness, we share our sense of dignity and belonging far beyond our city. We welcome all voices worldwide to share their stories just as Mr. Jolly Kambere has done for his people in Uganda who have been struggling since before the COVID- 19 pandemic and who will continue to struggle without support.
1) As the Programs Coordinator for Youth Partnership Uganda, Africa, how has the pandemic of COVID-19 affected your ability to help the woman and children you serve?
For the last 8 years, Youth partnership Uganda has been advocating for the rights of children and women. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, our efforts toward combating violence against women and children have been greatly affected since we can’t hold meetings and trainings. We have been depending on hired means of transport, which has also been restricted. We have to avoid public gathering like community baraza. The closure of churches and schools, which we have been using as platforms to pass the message, have been restricted and therefore we have to adhere to all the preventive measures like social distancing and avoiding handshaking in executing our work.
Youth Partnership Uganda has intensified a unique approach of reaching out to community members by ensuring that we popularize the toll-free helpline 116 to report all the human rights violation cases. We have embarked on conducting weekly radio talk shows on all four radio FM stations talking about COVID-19 in relation to human rights. We have arranged for public radio announcements, jingle messages and DJs mentioning us as well as village megaphones as a way to reach out to community members.
2) In your efforts to end child marriage and teenage pregnancy in the Kasese district, how has the pandemic affected the people you serve, as well as yourself mentally?
Kasese district lies along the trans-African highway and it borders the Democratic Republic of Congo in the west. Kasese is a busy business centre where most of the people engage in business as their means of survival. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected their source of income. Most people now lack food in their homes, women lack sanitary pads to use during menstruation, there has been increased cases of gender-based violence in most homes, young
vulnerable girls have engaged in commercial sex with truck drivers as a means of survival, which may result in transmission of COVID-19 and HIV. It has also led to child marriage as many girls look for means of survival so they think they will feel secure when they get married. Cases of teenage pregnancy have increased since most people no longer work and they are idle; the only activity is sex. Most people have to walk long distances to access family planning and reproductive health services.
Kasese, being the second district in Uganda with high rates of child marriage and teenage pregnancy, the situation seems to be worse than before in that we need serious interventions to avert the problem. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected our efforts because we cannot hold community advocacy trainings due to the closure of public institutions like schools, churches and public gatherings. A man committed suicide due to loss of income and employment, failing to provide food for his four children and his wife. He chose to end his life rather than witness the deaths of his children to starvation.
3) How have you practiced self-care while caring for others? How have you been able to help others with their own self care?
I have practiced self-care through physical distancing, especially when I am executing my work in any public place, frequent hand-washing, use of sanitizers and soap, always putting on the face masks and staying out of crowded places, and avoiding mass gatherings. Youth Partnership Uganda has handed out food to the most vulnerable homes. So far 50 homes have been covered out of 700 before the outbreak of floods. We have provided soap and sanitizers to homes with timely information about the pandemic.
4) Do you have any advice, recommendations, or warnings for other essential workers or non- essential workers, especially for those similar to you who struggle with frequent natural disasters like floods?
Kasese has quite often been hit by disasters like floods and dry spells in many parts of the district that results in loss of lives and property. We need to embrace programs of environmental protection and awareness by fostering community participation in environmental and ecosystem management to facilitate environmental sustainability, avoid degradation of the main stream banks and channels and constriction of river flow due to bridges and boulders.
5) What effect has COVID-19 had on you physically & mentally?
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused high prevalence of depression and anxiety, psychological stress and an economic downfall, which has negatively affected my personal source of income for my family and other dependants, resulting in a mental health problem brought about by much worry and stress over what will happen in the next coming days as we continue to keep in the lockdown situation.
6) What do you want the world to know about what is happening to your people during COVID- 19, and how can they help to support your people and causes? With relation to sanitary supplies, food and other much needed resources.
Although the people of Kasese district and Uganda as a whole have been taking positive steps to combat the spread of COVID-19 by practicing all the preventive measures, Kasese district has been hit with floods from most of the four major rivers that has its source on Mount Rwenzori and about 123,800 people in Kasese district have been affected. Floods have greatly destroyed people’s property and people are homeless and have resorted to staying in camps
which is now a major health risk of rapidly spreading the virus due to failure to observe the preventive measures and soon we shall expect some outbreak of other diseases like cholera.
The most vulnerable people like the OVC, elderly, single young mothers and their infants, people living with HIV/AIDS, people with disabilities, people with diabetes and sickle cells are likely to die sooner than anticipated.
It’s therefore against this background that Youth Partnership Uganda is seeking resources to address the immediate need of availing food stuffs, like maize, flour, salt ,rice, sugar ,beans, cooking oil, milk for the infants, beddings and mattresses, home utensils, soap, water tanks and hand washing facilities, tapelines, water purifiers, clothing for children, fuel and reusable sanitary pads for the women and girls, and mosquito nets so that we may prevent more deaths in Kasese.
You can easily visit our website and click on the donate button to save the lives of the most vulnerable people in Kasese, every single coin contributed counts a lot and can bring a smile on the face of the most affected people here in Kasese and Uganda at large.
7) Are you aware of just how important, valuable, and appreciated you are?
Yes, I am aware and this must have been the reason you contacted me: to brief you about the situation about COVID-19 and floods in Kasese even though you may have contacted many other people. My humble request to you is that though it be your first time to contact me about such disasters and any other situations, it not be the last. Feel free to contact our results-oriented, vibrant, committed team of social development workers. Look forward to further engagements with us at Youth Partnership Uganda.