How has social distancing impacted your role as the interim Operations Manager with Into Your Hands Africa?
With COVID-19, we had to exercise extreme measures to curb the virus’ spread in Uganda. These measures include social distancing, hand washing and the use of masks. Like any other change, we have encountered many challenges from a programming standpoint including:
- This year’s programming being in operation for only three months. Social distancing has taxed us with working from home which hasn’t been easy which has delayed program activities and anticipated program impacts;
- Daily interaction with staff isn’t as frequent as before which breaks the ongoing chain in communication; and
- Many of our service providers such as banks are now closed which has halted my performance and execution of administration tasks.
How are you and your family staying safe during this difficult time?
We stay at home, wash our hands, practice social distancing when required to go out in public, try to eat healthy and most importantly, do not allow visitors into our homes beyond immediate family members.
How is the Ugandan government defining social distancing? What policies have been set in place and are community members following these policies?
All public gatherings that exceed five people have been stopped including rallies, concerts and schools. These actions were taken before any case had been found in Uganda. Unfortunately since then, a patient tested and the number of infected Ugandans has continued to grow. All public transportation including boda bodas, taxis and buses have also stopped. Many businesses have closed and employees are being laid off. There is also a curfew in place.
With all the above policies put in place by the Ugandan government, people are following them with no fail. For those who have tried to turn a deaf ear, the Ugandan government has responded with more extreme measures like the use of the cane. At this time, social distancing has been really effective as everyone is at home with very little movement by foot which has limited any physical contact.
What impacts have you already noticed from a community perspective with regard to social distancing? Has this impacted markets and social sectors? If so, How?
With social distancing, the community has lost all patience, as they are conflicted between compliance to remain healthy while also continuing to struggle for their everyday livelihood. This has required many of them to reopen their shops however general social distancing hasn’t been as effectively followed as hand washing.
How are social services responding to the social distancing policy?
Many social services were closed as they failed to adhere to the government’s directives while some of them are also challenged with the lack of transportation services for their staff. Generally when one wears a mask and washes their hands, then they care less about the distancing.
What have been some unanticipated consequences of COVID19 to date?
Two unforeseen consequences of COVID-19 has been the closure of businesses and the fall of the country’s economy. Sick individuals with COVID-19 have also escaped from quarantine centers which is also spreading the virus faster than anticipated.
How are Ugandans communicating with one another during this time?
Communication is done primarily through phone calls or social media posts however there has been a lot of misinformation and negativity.
How is up-to-date information being communicated to Ugandans? By what source? Have there been challenges in this area?
The Ministry of Health (MOH) communicates through their main Twitter account. This has helped many Ugandans to receive up-to-date and accurate information. The president also speaks to the general public every two to three days when polices are updated. This has been very effective in creating full compliance to any set guidelines. After information is released by these two sources radio and television stations also share it.
How has social distancing impacted daily life in Uganda?
Everyone’s life is at a standstill. Many Ugandans are demanding help from the government. Every business is closed leaving about three markets operating in Kampala, which typically has over 100 available markets.
IYHA supports educational scholarship, farming cooperatives, women’s enterprise training cohorts and small family businesses. How has COVID-19 and current social distancing policies already impacted these programs?
Currently all of our programs are on hold, no school lessons, no trainings or workshops, and beneficiaries that had been expecting to get their projects this month have also been delayed.
With social distancing we are in space of wondering when and how this will end. Will our programs run as efficiently as before? Will our beneficiaries and students survive this? Will we be okay as well?
Social distancing is a cruel reality check leaving every program negatively affected but if it will keep us safe, then we need to continue to abide by the policy. Our communities are also worried about IYHA being able to continue to support them since our United States sponsors were badly hit by the virus as well. We try to reassure them while we continue to hope for the best.
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