UNICEF-supported community volunteers keeping Ebola out of Kyegegwa District
"The uptake of Ebola messages in his community has been great"
It is about 10 am in Kihamba Sub-County in Kyegegwa District, Western Uganda, and 80-year-old Gertrude Nalubega has just been fished out of her garden to attend to a community volunteer who has visited her community to talk about Ebola prevention.
In her compound, the team is greeted by a tippy tap hand washing facility – complete with a piece of soap. She demands that all guests wash their hands with soap before accessing her premises.
Nalubega says that it is her duty to protect herself and the community from Ebola – a disease she says is caused by eating bush meat and bats.
“I put that jerrycan there to protect myself but also keep that deadly disease out of this village,”
Nalubega has two hand washing facilities at her homestead despite living there alone since her husband died in 1999. The jerrycans are more of every household possession in the district thanks to efforts by the community volunteers and Village Health Teams (VHTs) that were trained and equipped by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) with support from UNICEF.
This 80-strong team ply Kyegegwa District on their bicycles – also procured by UNICEF – to spread messages about Ebola in their respective villages and keep making constant follow-ups to ensure that their knowledge is implemented to the letter.
“We teach the community how to identify symptoms of Ebola, how it is transmitted and what to do when they suspect that a community member has it,” says Charles Tumusiime (23), an LWF volunteer in Kihamba Village.
He adds that the uptake of Ebola messages in his community has been great, stating with confidence that over 80 per cent of the 55 households he has visited have adopted hand washing practices, improved their toilet facilities and are on high alert in case of any outbreak.
The volunteers are now in 27 villages that were selected by the District Ebola Taskforce according to Sula Kaggwa Sekisambu, the UNICEF Communication for Development Officer in the area.
“We have also trained 350 school head teachers and their deputies on Ebola and supported several government schools with water tanks, soaps, and communication materials to pass on the messages to their students, pupils and parents,”
Sula and team have curated the Ebola communication material such as charts, posters and fliers in multiple languages that are widely spoken in the district like Runyoro-Rutooro, Swahili, French, Lingala and Runyankore to serve both the Congolese refugees in Kyaaka II Refugee Settlement and the host community.
At every turn in the district, be it at a hotel, taxi stage, radio station, public place, there is an Ebola chart or poster produced by Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF and WHO and funding from UKaid, USAID and UNCERF. To access some offices and hotels in the area, one must wash their hands with soap, detergent or jik first.