People living in Kampala’s slums of Kataba-Kabalagala and Ki-Mombasa in Bwaise have resorted to using alcohol to ‘protect’ themselves from covid-19 instead of following the Standard Operating Procedures like using face masks and washing hands regularly, a study report indicates.
“Since we can use alcohol based sanitizers to keep the virus at bay, why not get the liquor itself into our body systems?” a group of slum dwellers asked.
This was established by the report of a November 2020 ALERTs (Adherence, Lived Experiences and Resilient Transformation) in Covid-19 study conducted among slum dwellers in Kampala.
During the study report dissemination exercise held at Makerere University yesterday, it was noted that at the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic, people adhered to preventive measures due to the fear of catching the virus, however, months into the reality of the disease, this has drastically changed.
Hilda Namakula, a co-investigator of the study revealed that by the time the Ministry of Health announced the first Covid-19 case in Uganda, people were washing hands, wearing masks, social distancing and complying with the lockdown and curfew rules.
However, she said, this has changed as people are doing the opposite; including sharing face masks, or replacing them with alcohol as the study revealed.
“People are using alcohol as a way of protecting themselves. They say that if they can spray the alcohol on their body to prevent the virus, how about if the virus finds the alcohol in my system?” she said.
Namakula noted that when people got to know that the major ingredient in sanitizers is alcohol that kills the germs, they adopted a notion of ingesting the alcohol “so the virus finds it in the system.”
“Also, most of them are not wearing masks and they are spraying the alcohol like the local ‘waragi’ all over the body. Most of them actually think it’s the alcohol preventing them from contracting the corona virus hence taking it and applying it on their body,” Namakula said.
She revealed that there are many myths about covid-19, as some them still say it’s part of a political agenda, it is not real, while others argue that it’s a war between America and China.
What Leaders Say
According to Wycliff Ssali, the Makindye division Surveillance Officer, covid-19 is increasing because people are not following SOPs and politicking the situation.
“When they see a political leader not putting on a face mask, they follow that. If the political leader is not doing so, what do you expect the local person to do? So, let’s try to boost the community village health team members to educate the local people,” he said.
Simon Karasi, the chairman LC II of Kabalagala blamed the increasing cases of covid-19 on political rallies.
“It’s very difficult for us to tell people to social distance and follow SOPs at this time. So, we need to wait for elections to end. In my area, I have got megaphones which I use to pass public information, including sensitisation while going around in the community; but it can’t help when we are still in the political season,” Karasi said.
Catherine Nakato, a Community Linkage Facilitator of Kabalagala said that more sensitisation and education needs to be done.
“We have to sensitise them on the prevention of corona virus. I encourage my people to eat a balanced diet containing fruits, eggs, taking concoctions of ginger, garlic in hot water, in order to boost their immunity,” Nakato said.
Pr Alex Turyagyenda from Harvest Church Fellowship in Kabalagala said, “We can see people coming from home not putting their masks on. When you ask them why, they say corona is not real. As leaders of community, we are still having a lot of challenges with our people. They still want to bring children to church.”
Asuman Sseruwagi, a Village Health Team member, youth leader and health worker in Bwaise said that people have lost sense of fear for covid-19, “However through sensitisation, this can be overcome.”
Dr Gloria Seruwagi, principle investigator of the study noted that although the government has tried to get the message of awareness across, the gap is in implementation and compliance to this message.
“Most people know about covid-19. Our top recommendation is that government and partners should now emphasize addressing drivers of non compliance. These drivers are not health reasons; most of them are social economic. Some of them are social cultural; the myths around covid-19,” Seruwagi said.
She also noted that through the Community Engagement Strategy, through leaders like chairmen, VHTs and others, sensitization can be maximized.