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By Ken Kalungi
July 15, 2020 / Wobulenzi Uganda

A few years ago, we started the journey of collecting mobile numbers from our congregations and always when we had a conference. My main emphasis was to invite all delegates to write their names and contact information to receive messages for health and wellbeing. 

In the past, I had face-to-face contact with some of them and shared ideas on the importance of communications. Most people need to be alerted that they will receive messages from you, because there are many spam messages, and worldwide fraud is so high these days.

Most of our communities do not have electricity and internet, so very few people can access social media. SMS/text message is the best way to communicate to those who can read. Before the pandemic of COVID-19, we traveled to communities with the Virtual Classroom provided by Harper Hill Global, to share disease-prevention animations to communities, teaching them how to live healthier lives. This is not possible now because of the virus.

Digital Communications

Over the month of July, we sent over 3,500 messages to phones to prevent COVID-19 and encourage people with hope. We have distributed the disease prevention animations to over 200 people, using social media. We keep going.

Entering from the Borders

Uganda was put on a lock down when we had only one active case. The government has since shown that the virus is entering Uganda through Lorry drivers who cross borders.

When the drivers are tested and found positive, they are taken in COVID-19 treatment. Some of these patients share stories of what is happening in those facilities. They share videos showing how they are given poor care. They use Facebook to record statements which shows they are not sick. We see some of the patients (which the government claim are positive) dancing to music in hospitals and playing games.

People started comparing the videos of patients from Italy, USA and other countries having COVID-19 patients. When they look at videos from those countries, patients are in ICU. In Uganda, it’s claimed we have never put anyone in ICU.

This has caused myths here that we don’t have COVID-19 in Uganda. I hear people saying, “We don’t have COVID-19 in Uganda.”

Conflicting Messages

Last week, people have seen videos showing the minister of health having a rally in northern Uganda when people are crowded and not wearing face masks. The same minister has been on TV teaching people the dangers of crowding and the dangers of not wearing a mask. She was not wearing a mask and neither was the community she was meeting. When people see videos, they sometimes do not know when they were recorded and are confused by conflicting messages.

Some see the government using COVID-19 for business and political gains. Right now it’s saying the country will have a scientific election. Political rallies will be aired on television and radio. The opposition sees it as unfair because radio and tv stations are owned by government officials.

All this is putting the country in trouble.

When I hear and see all this, I get the strength to send messages to communities tirelessly because the virus is here and it is real.

Read more about COVID-19 in Uganda at https://www.health.go.ug/covid/. You can support food for body, mind and spirit in Uganda by giving now.

Ken Kalungi is a humanitarian communicator/communications specialist for Harper Hill Global and the Women Arise Collective, based in Wobulenzi Uganda.