Meet Deo Barigye, the Rubirizi boda-boda Chairman championing fight against Ebola amongst peers
Ebola awareness amongst his peers is over 60 per cent
Deo Barigye is the Chairman of Nyakasharu boda-boda stage right at the centre of Rubirizi town. At his stage, over 60 cyclists park and wait for clients. It is the junction point into the hilly outskirts of the district.
Having been part of the community influencers trained by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) with UNICEF support and funding from UKaid and UNCERF Barigye hit the ground running. He mobilized his colleagues in and out of town for a series of meetings where he educated them about the looming Ebola disease and how they can avoid it.
The Local Council 1 Chairman of Buzenga Village, Moses Mugisha says that he has been following the work Barigye and team are doing and is pleased at how great the boda-boda Chairman has been able to organize what would otherwise be a rowdy group of highly vulnerable people.
“It is hard to get all these people in one place, sitting and listening for all this time to someone who is not going to give them money,” Mugisha wondered after finding Barigye conducting a ‘lecture’ on Ebola to his attentive colleagues.
As part of his gospel, Barigye is cautioning colleagues to take serious precautions. Most of the cyclists in the district now use gloves while on duty and have hand washing facilities with detergent at their stages.
Cyclists are now under strict instruction not to touch their clients, not to wear colleagues’ jackets anyhow, to study their clients for any Ebola signs and symptoms and to contact health experts through the provided number before ferrying a suspect from one destination to another.
“Sometimes I leave my jackets and helmet in this shade and often, a colleague could wear them when it rains but we are now saying; that is not appropriate,”
In a district with over 600 boda-boda cyclists, Barigye confidently says that the level of Ebola awareness amongst his peers is over 60 per cent. His seamless liaison with other Stage Chairmen has enabled them to send out a uniform message and build a firm stance against Ebola.
His colleagues in the profession are however decrying the cost of gloves which they say are a preserve of the privileged.
Some even pleaded that UNICEF gives them surgical gloves to use as protective gear – a proposal Ritah Mwagale, the C4D Programme Officer in the area dismissed as not feasible.
“Ideally, you are supposed to use one pair of surgical gloves per one client. So how many would you need in one day? The gloves are expensive, even for us. That is why we limit them to health facilities where the risk is even higher,” she said endorsing hand washing as the best, yet cost effective method.
Barigye says that although it is voluntary for cyclists to use safety measures to protect themselves, he has the powers to force members to comply because he has the backing of the district authorities to enforce compliance.
As James Luyimbazi, the district Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) notes, the presence of facilities does not necessarily guarantee compliance citing the example of the district headquarters where a hand washing facility is placed “strategically” at the gate with water and soap but not every staff uses it.
The Local Council 5 Chairman, Sylvester Agubashongorera says he was shocked when he visited a certain health centre only to find the hand washing facility on the ground, abandoned for weeks and the same place did not even have proper toilets.
“Some of these people take things for granted. Some households don’t have permanent toilets so we count on leaders at lower units of administration to help in the push for proper hygiene because problems like Ebola are not personal. Before you know it, the whole country is paying the price,” Agubashongorera adds.
Rubirizi District is one of the Ebola high risk districts due to its proximity to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and hunting nature of its inhabitants that consider bush meat a delicacy.
UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Health preparedness activities in high risk districts in western Uganda with funding from UKaid and UNCERF.