Uganda Red Cross Response To The Congolese Refugee Influx

Wednesday, 17 November 2021 08:11 Written by
A Uganda Red Cross Volunter puting an arm bracelet on a refugee at Nyakabande
Transit Center after regestration

On 7th November 2021, heavy fighting between armed forces began in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the areas of Runyonyi and Tshanzu around the Virunga Mountains a few miles away from Uganda.

The fighting caused a huge population movement from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Uganda.

Egbeble Mohamed moved from DR-Congo with his family and shares with us; “It was midnight, many people were sleeping but I was still awake. I heard gun shots and in a short time, people were running. I too feared and joined the group running. Our family is not far from the Uganda border Bunagana. We found ourselves here.” Mohamed narrates.

By morning on 8th November, thousands of Refugees had gathered at Bunagana Primary School in Bunagana town council and Kibaya market. Uganda Red Cross Kisoro branch deployed volunteers to work alongside the district officials to support and offer lifeline support to the new arrivals. “We worked with the district officials. We had heard news of the fighting early in the morning, and already many people had camped at Bunagana primary school. Many were tired and needed rest so the Kisoro District Disaster Management Committee resolved that they should be taken to Nyakabamde Transit Center to acquire basic needs like medication and food. “As Uganda Red Cross we supported in the registering of those coming in as well as helping in tracing those that could not see their relatives through the restoring family links program, gave first aid to the injured, helped children to cross busy roads and gave families psychosocial support.” Prim Rose Natukunda, Uganda Red Cross Kisoro branch.

Offering lifeline information to the new arrivals

Rukundo Manasseh Assistant Chief Administrative Officer and the Chairperson of the District Disaster Management Committee noted that the numbers were overwhelming but they tried to support with help from partners such as Red Cross. “We didn’t want to get other risks such as disease outbreaks like Cholera, Ebola or Covid 19. By morning, teams from Uganda Red Cross were on ground registering and offering support to the refugees." Rukundo added.

According to the District Disaster Management Committee (DDMC) report of 8th November, an estimated number of 5000 people had fled to Uganda due to the fighting. However, on 9th November, the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo had calmed down which made some of the refugees go back home.

Currently about 1100 refugees are still at Nyakabande Transit Center and are receiving aid from the Partners on ground and the Government of Uganda.

Uganda Red Cross Volunteer helping children to cross the busy Bunagana
border point

Uganda Red Cross Society is improving Menstrual hygiene management for refugees in West Nile.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021 20:54 Written by
Fatuma Kiyang receives a Menstrual Hygiene Management kit

Fatuma Kiyang is a 17-year old South Sudanese refugee who fled to Uganda when the armed conflict destabilized Southern Sudan. She, like many other young girls, have made their home in village A of zone 3 West of the Palorinya Refugee Settlement.

Palorinya Refugee Settlement has approximately 2,221 girls aged between 12 and 17 years who go to school. Due to the lack of menstrual health hygiene materials, the girls find it hard to access clean, and adequate menstrual hygiene materials to use during menstrual cycles, which results in them missing school.

Due to this lack of proper menstrual health and hygiene management, 60% of the girls miss up to three days of school attendance each month, which greatly affects their academic performance. 5% of the female learners drop out of school completely because of lack of decent, adequate, and hygienic materials to use resulting in early marriages and teenage pregnancies.

To address this, Uganda Red Cross Society with support from the German Red Cross and supplementary funding from the Swiss Red Cross, procured 1,458 menstrual hygiene management kits which were distributed to 251 girls residing in the Palorinya Refugee Settlement. Each of the kits included reusable sanitary pads, a bucket, Kitengi, hanging line rope, a bar of soap, and pegs.

Fatuma is among girls who received menstrual hygiene management kits. She comes from a very poor family which cannot afford to buy sanitary pads at 3500/= each packet for the girl during menstruation every month.

Gune Sylvia, the Senior Woman Teacher is also responsible for
Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management at Idiwa Parents Senior
Secondary School

Fatuma says, “Before I received the menstrual management kits, I suffered from periods. I used pieces of cloth cut from used fabrics. Blood at times passed through and I had a bad smell. I hid from people for fears of laughing at me which made me miss school during my menstrual days”. She added that “No one was there to provide the pads to use. No soap to bath and used pads were hanged in dirty places for fears of other people seeing them. However, the situation changed when the Red Cross came to my school with the good news of distributing menstrual hygiene kits to selected girls”.

Gune Sylvia, the Senior Woman Teacher at Idiwa Parents Senior Secondary School teaches the students on menstrual health management, mentions that “Fatuma is one of the vibrant and active students who deserved not to miss out on the kits”.

Fatuma now happily attends school regularly without worrying about soiling herself during her periods. She adds that “No one in class including the boys tells when I am in my periods. I concentrate and pay attention to what the teachers teach, and I participate actively in class. The kit helped to boost my confidence. Thank you so much the Swiss Red Cross for the support. The kit has helped to keep me in school, I am no longer worried about dropping out of school because I have hygiene materials to use”.

Prime Minster, Rt. Hon Robinah Nabanja Commissions Bunambutye Resettlement Health Center

Wednesday, 22 September 2021 20:53 Written by
The completed and fully equipped Bunambutye Resettlement Health
Center 3

Prime Minster, Rt. Hon Robinah Nabanja Commissions Bunambutye Resettlement Health Center III in Bulambuli District.

In August 2020, the Government of Uganda entrusted the Uganda Red Cross Society with funding to construct a Health Center III in the Bunambutye Resettlement Center in Bulambuli district. The Health Center 3 is intended to help improve the health care for the people that were displaced from Bududa district due to severe flooding.

A year later, on 27th August 2021, the fully equipped operational Health Center 3 was officially handed over to the Government of Uganda and commissioned by the Prime Minister; Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabanja to commence full-scale operation.

URCS Secretary General, Robert Kwesiga noted that, “We were privileged when the Uganda Government gave us the responsibility of constructing this health center in Bunambutye". He was proud that the Society was handing over a completed Health Facility fully-equipped with the best equipment and already in operation.

The Secretary General also thanked the Office of the Prime Minister and Minister of health for closely working with Uganda Red Cross to make sure that the construction work is successfully completed.

The Health Facility has been equipped with all the necessary medical equipment and staff needed for its operation. The Facility consists of one Out-Patient Department block, a General Maternity ward, a Twin staff house, and one block of two-stance VIP Lined pit latrines.

URCS Secretary General Robert Kwesiga speaks at commissioning
of the Bunambutye HC3.

It also has two block of four-stance VIP lined Pit latrines, a Gatehouse, one incinerator, a placenta pit, one medical waste pit, and staff quarters. It was also equipped with a solar lighting system.

Hon. Hanifa Kawoya, the State Minister for Health in charge of General Duties appreciated the Uganda Red Cross for executing the assignment on time and for being very good stewards of the resources that were entrusted to them. While giving her remarks, the Prime Minister Rt. Hon Robinah Nabanja thanked Uganda Red Cross for always complimenting on government efforts in responding to human needs. The Prime Minister also encouraged the community to utilize the health center and added that her office and the Ministry of Health were committed to recruiting a medical Doctor for every Health Center III.

The construction was closely supervised by an inter-government agency committee that was coordinated by the Office of the Prime Minister under the Ministry of Disaster and Refugees, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, the Ministry of Local Government and the Bulambuli Local Government Technical Team.

The Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja commissions Bunambutye
Health Center 3

Combating rumors and misinformation in the time of COVID-19

Sunday, 19 September 2021 18:27 Written by
A Wakiso community member receiving his vaccine while a URCS Volunteer
looks on

Acting on the wrong information can kill. In the first three months of 2020, nearly 6,000 people around the globe were reported hospitalized because of coronavirus misinformation, a WHO research suggests. During this period, researchers say at least 800 people may have died due to misinformation related to COVID-19.

Misinformation and rumors on COVID-19 are just as prevalent in Uganda, with Uganda Red Cross’ Tracking system showing upwards of 45,600 rumors and misinformation about COVID-19 circulating in communities around the country since the Coronavirus was first registered in Uganda in March 2020.

“Some people were thinking that COVID-19 was not there in Uganda because a myth was out there that COVID-19 does not affect Africans. That it is a disease for the white man. Another rumor that was there was that this was a deliberate tool of government to use this to deny some people a chance to campaign during elections”, elaborates Prize Tayebwa URCS Kampala West, Branch Manager.

“People lack information and those who have information, some have wrong information. People have various information about COVID, concerning the treatment and how it is spread”, says Tom Mulondo URCS Volunteer in Entebbe.

Rumors and misinformation create a breeding ground for uncertainty. Uncertainty fuels distrust, creating an environment of fear, finger-pointing, anxiety, stigma and even dismissal of proven health measures - which can lead to loss of life.

URCS Volunteers combating COVID-19 rumors and misinformation
through community engagement and door to door visits

“Some people were also doing a lot of steaming and taking a lot of ginger and garlic, and yet they did not have corona and we actually got a number of people who developed acute ulcers. And the problem was that they were taking lemon, ginger and garlic daily in large quantities, trying to vaccinate themselves so that they do not get the corona virus”, says Tom Mulondo.

To try and control what the World Health Organization has termed as the COVID-19 infodemic (a combination of facts and myths on any given topic), Uganda Red Cross Society with the Village COVID Task Force Teams, that were set up to drive the National Community Engagement Strategy, are engaging communities and distributing content, answering questions one-on-one or in communal gatherings, to combat the spread of rumors and misinformation.

Prize Tayebwa continues that, “The volunteers were trained and given all the information about COVID-19 and so in these communities, we were able to engage the people to tell them that, this is not witchcraft, this is a scientific disease which will go away with scientific measures and SOPs are one of them and then vaccination is another one”.

Through community engagement and the availability of answers to their questions, communities are coming round to behavioral change and following the guidelines and information being given to them through trusted sources.

Henry Nsamba, the Branch Manager of Wakiso attributes this to the teamwork done by the Village Task Force teams. He says, “We move as a team. This team includes URCS Volunteers, Village Health Team members, cultural and religious leaders, local council leaders and we have built community trust and now they are listening to us”.

URCS’ Information Tracking Dashboard showing over 45,000 rumors and
misinformation circulating in communities

By August 2021, over 2,000 Village Task Force (VTF) teams had been formed in communities around the country. The VTF teams have so far engaged with over 359,455 people with risk communication information.

In the early days of the pandemic, much of the misinformation and rumors focused on whether COVID-19 was real, or if it was even as serious as was being portrayed to warrant the wearing of masks, as well as numerous herbal treatments and cures. A year into the pandemic, vaccines are being rolled out, and information about them — some reliable and some not — is everywhere. The Village Task Force Teams and URCS Volunteers are in the communities addressing the misconceptions and misinformation.

Henry Nsamba continues that, “People thought that the vaccines were not safe and that when they are vaccinated, they will die in a few months. But through the risk communication, going from community to community, we have been able to tell them that we ourselves have been vaccinated and we are alive and healthy. And now we are seeing large crowds at health centers waiting for the vaccine”.

Although the COVID-19 infodemic cannot be wiped out completely, it is being managed through the Community Engagement Strategy, and the low numbers of COVID-19 infections and community spread after the easing of the lockdown, can be attributed to this. By showing people how to recognize and report misinformation and improve their media literacy, we can keep at bay the effects of the infodemic scourge and save lives. *World Health Organization April 2021

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URCS Contacts

Plot 551/555 Rubaga Road.
P.O. Box 494, Kampala Uganda.
Tel:     (256) 414 258701
Tel:     (256) 414 258702
Email: sgurcs@redcrossug.org


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