A new study shows that refugee communities in Uganda have an undermining attitude towards the impact of the Covid-19 disease on the health of those who contract it.
There is also suspicion about the disease, with some arguing that it is a money-making venture by some government officials.
By Friday, Uganda had registered 11,041 Covid-19 positive cases and 98 related deaths, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health
This was established by the findings of a study titled “Knowledge, adherence, and lived experiences of refugees in Covid-19.”
The study conducted by researchers from Makerere and Gulu universities, and the Lutheran World Federation, focused on how refugee communities responded to the outbreak of the pandemic and it’s management at community and household level.
The study centered on the areas of knowledge and awareness, compliance to standard operating procedures (SOPs) and enforcement experiences.
It covered about 1,500 participants from Kisenyi, Kyaka II refugee settlement in Kyegegwa, and Adjumani Refugee settlements in West Nile and others from south western Uganda.
According to the study, the negative attitudes stem from the harsh experiences that many refugees have gone through, as well as the spread of multiple myths about the disease. Advertisement
“Previous adverse experiences of war, torture, rape and hunger, have produced a survivor mentality with little or no fear: I have dodged bullets, been beaten and slept hungry for days, what more harm can Covid do to me?” the report states.
It adds: “The myth going round that Africans are immune to Covid-19, and some of this was reinforced by refugee connections in the diaspora, who told them about high death rates compared to what they were experiencing here in Uganda.”
The study also cites that many refugees are suspicious of the drive by the government to collect money to respond to the pandemic.
“Covid is just a scheme to get some people rich… because where is all the money which was collected? Where are the masks which the President promised us? Because here, they have not yet reached,” the report states.
At the onset of the outbreak, President Museveni and the Covid-19 National Taskforce appealed to Ugandans to donate both financially and in kind to reinforce government efforts to fight the pandemic.
Last month, President Museveni told journalists that the donation funds amounted to over Shs29b and directed on how it would be used.
Consequently, there has been mixed reactions and compliance to SOPs. The study findings show that washing of hands was the most commonly adhered to guideline among the adults, with the majority of the children not complying.
Compliance to social distancing and wearing of masks was found to be very low.
“There is compliance fatigue, with many societal segments, including enforcers and frontline workers, not wearing the masks. This also contributed to refugees not wearing them because they observed service providers and leaders not complying,” the report states.
Similar to this, many other Ugandans seem to have long abandoned adhering to social distancing and use of masks guidelines since the easing of the nationwide lockdown, despite the rising number of cases.
The researchers have recommended intensive awareness creation focusing on impact and risk reduction.
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