The confirmed cases of Covid-19 are escalating while the country is progressively easing the lockdown measures.
This is against the backdrop of rising community transmission, including seven frontline healthcare workers. As of June 2, the country had registered 489 confirmed cases (a 115 per cent increment in 14 days!) - majority of whom are trans-border truck drivers.
With community transmission increasing while population movement restrictions are being progressively relaxed, this is a critical time for the containment measures of Covid-19. The population is becoming uneasy with the continued lockdown measures.
While at the beginning of the pandemic government was telling citizens what to do and there was minimal or no input from the communities - and communities followed suit, with the evolving pandemic landscape, it is imperative the government listens and engages with communities to co-produce successful Covid-19 preventive and control measures.
A community is an integral platform for primary healthcare and is key to the delivery of services and essential public health functions. The engagement and empowerment of communities in relation to their health, including prevention and containment of Covid-19, is the next best approach to pursue.
Communities, through key resource persons, including community health workers, opinion and political leaders, religious leaders, etc, and their respective networks are a cornerstone to the prevention and control of community transmission of Covid-19 and for the continuity of care.
Community resource persons will greatly benefit from proactive investment by the Ministry of Health in information relevant for language appropriate for risk communication, supported by print information and education materials, they are also key in addressing rumours and stigma, in clinical case identification and/or referral for confirmatory testing as well as ongoing support and monitoring during self and/or institutional isolation, and these resource persons will further support with contact tracing.
Covid-19 risk communication is successful only to the extent that it raises the level of understanding of relevant issues on the virus or actions to contain it and to the satisfaction of the communities involved i.e that communities are adequately informed within the limits of available knowledge.
This is the information on which community decision-making will base their choices and willfully adhere to them, and delivery of this information is best achieved if delivered through the people that are trusted by the communities, namely community resource persons.
The systematic engagement and communication with individuals and communities is critical to maintain trust in the capacity and the ability of the health system to provide safe and quality essential services and to ensure appropriate care-seeking behaviour and adherence to public health advice. It is therefore imperative to engage communities.
These risk communication, case identification, referral and contact tracing activities will be efficiently be achieved if there are genuine and appropriate linkages with formal health systems such as regional laboratory testing sites and other formal service providers.
Community resource persons have progressively and over time built trust within their respective communities, and can help devise collective and tailored Covid-19 preventive responses, reduce Covid-19-related stigma and discrimination for suspects, Covid recoveries and their relatives.
Mr Katagata Jr. is the co-founder and executive,
African Potential Forum (APF), Buhweju District.