EBOLA FIGHT IN UGANDA – BONNY NATUKUNDA
By Goodluck Musinguzi
The Uganda Ministry of Health declared an Ebola outbreak in Uganda on the 20th, of September 2022 after confirming an Ebola case at Mubende regional referral hospital.
More cases were since confirmed and death from the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) were recorded in the different districts of Uganda including Wakiso District till the 11th of January when the country was declared Ebola free having discharged its last Ebola patient in December 2022.
Ebola is an acute serious illness caused by Ebola virus and is often fatal if untreated. The virus that causes Ebola is transmitted to people from wild animals and then spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission trough contact.
VHTs of Wakiso district happy after the training on Ebola and having received the personal protective equipment to use in the fifth of Ebola
Different interventions and Ebola management including prevention and control activities have been implemented and guided by Ministry of Health with support from partners and World Health Organisation (WHO). With support from Africa CDC,AFNET through the ministry of health, Wakiso district in particular conducted a training of 1000 VHTs in the entire district on Community Based Disease Surveillance, Risk Communication (946) and Safe Dignified Burials (54) with the main goal to increase awareness on Ebola viral disease (EVD) in the district for effective risk communication, surveillance/contact tracing, engagement of the communities geared towards control of EVD where by these were fully trained for three days and have done a great role in conducting health education in their different communities.
Bonny Natukunda Senior health educator, Wakiso District giving out reflector jackets to boda boda riders with some key messages on Ebola.
The case fatality rate of Ebola is averagely 50% and has varied from 25% to 90% in the past outbreaks. This particular outbreak has left 55 dead of which one death was in Wakiso district.
We continue to be vigilant and follow up the survivors to avoid future spread. Appreciation go to Ministry of Health because out of the 143 individuals that contracted the disease only 55 succumbed to the disease inclusive of one death in Wakiso district the largest and most populous district in the country due to the great effort exhibited by ministry of health led by the permanent secretary Dr. Diana Atwine in the fight including trainings to the members of the village health teams in the affected districts including Wakiso. This has partly been due to a number of interventions that the country and Wakiso district have done to fight the outbreak. Different response pillars were deployed to fight the outbreak and these include.
- Case management
- Emergency medical services
- Safe and dignified burials
- Wash and infection control
- Risk communication
- Social mobilization
- Community engagement
These have been used in all the affected districts including Wakiso district.
Commissioner Health Promotion Dr. Richard Kabanda and a team of funders from Africa CDC, Afenet, Wakiso district leadership during a flied visit to Wakiso district during VHT Ebola trainings
Risk communication, social mobilization and community engagement have largely played a great role in the fight of Ebola in Wakiso district where by the trained members of the VHTs moved to their different communities and conducted health education with the aim of increasing awareness on the Ebola viral disease, this has greatly improved people’s perceptions and reduced on the many myths and misconceptions that the communities had on the EVD.
Even when the country has been declared Ebola free the VHTs have been urged to continue being vigilant in their communities so as to identify any suspects and inform the relevant officers immediately.
Achievements from the VHT trainings on Ebola disease
The following were the achievements by the end of the training;
- VHTs were equipped with items including gumboots, umbrellas, and bags including reporting forms for use during the three plus months of community Ebola management activities.
- New knowledge about Ebola including; causes, signs and symptoms, prevention etc. was well delivered to the participants. Most of the participants had never received training about Ebola although some had information through other sources. The information that most of them had was however not clear and would not lead to effective Ebola management before, during and after the outbreak.
- Some myth and misconceptions about Ebola were dispelled and participants gained skills on how to approach community members better with the knowledge on Ebola management.
- Integrating Ebola Health education with routine VHT activities. During the training, all VHTs expressed commitment to integrate Ebola health education with their usual activities in the community in order to prevent the outbreak. This will serve as an effective way to prevent Ebola in the area.
- Increasing awareness in their communities on the Ebola viral disease and ending the Ebola outbreak in the district.
Ebola outbreak came at a time when the country was recovering from the stress of COVID-19 and starting from the central posed a worse challenge than before due to the restrictions of movements of the central people among others. The ministry of health using the different response pillars was able to contain the outbreak although 54 people succumbed to the disease. The members of the village health teams did a great role in increasing awareness on the EVD and are continuing to be more vigilant. Members of the community should remain very committed to prevent future spread.
I would like to acknowledge the different stakeholders who made sure that the Ebola outbreak ended in Uganda. Ministry of Health led by the permanent secretary, the Minister of Health and all technical staff that supported the country and Wakiso district in particular. The Implementing partners especially Africa CDC, Afenet, Unicef ,Lutheran world federation and all other partners especially that facilitated the trainings of the village health teams in the district to ensure that the VHTs have basic information to pass on to their communities without forgetting the personal protective equipment that were given to them. Further appreciation goes to Wakiso District local government, village health teams and the entire health staff fraternity for the great effort in the fight to end Ebola.