Uganda has been prone to many disease outbreaks, including faecal-oral diseases such as cholera, typhoid, diarrhoea, and poliomyelitis, among others. Covid-19 is a new infectious disease that easily spreads from person to person through sneezing and cough, among others. Although many think Covid-19 is like flu, this is not correct.
Covid-19 is novel strain, which scientists and other public health experts are still grappling to understand more about its character, transmission and control.
There is a growing field of scientific evidence that is pointing towards transmission through the faecal-oral route.
When a disease spreads through the faecal-oral route, it means contaminated faeces from an infected person is somehow ingested by another person.
This can be through consumption of contaminated food or water as a result of contact with flies, flood flow into unprotected water sources, and seepage of excreta through soil into water sources or even just through our contaminated fingers.
Since Uganda is prone to many such faecal-oral disease outbreaks, Covid-19 will possibly join the list soon.
There is a high possibility of faecal-oral spread even after one tests negative on the respiratory tract samples.
Worth noting is the fact that surrogate human coronaviruses can survive for up to two days in water which has no chlorine or any other water treatment substances.
If the possibility of faecal-oral spread of Covid-19 finally gets confirmed, how prepared are we as Uganda, given that sewage spillages in cities and municipalities is still very prevalent; sanitation and hygiene behaviours, and faecal sludge emptying practices are already appalling? Well, of course we are not prepared for that upsetting news.
Recently, I watched two videos - one by a district leader and the other by a religious leader both demonstrating how to wash hands with soap, and I concluded that we are asking people to wash hands with soap, but the correct technique of hand washing is not being demonstrated to the public.
I, therefore, request the public, government, and others to find out how best we can improve our sanitation and hygiene profile within the confines of healthcare facilities, schools, and communities, as other measures to control the spread of Covid-19.
We need to sustain efforts to ensure that people have access to safe water. That can be done by facilitating water source protection, activating water user committees, conducting regular sanitary surveys, and water quality testing. Additionally, National Water and Sewage Cooperation should ensure that all water safety measures are well observed.
There is need to intensify hygiene promotion, for example, how to wash hands properly. Just spreading messages of hand washing without sensitising the public on how it should be done is inadequate.
Besides, there is need to ensure Ugandans who defecate in the open get access to clean water so as to reduce contamination of food, water, and the surrounding with faecal matter.
Sensitisation messages and bye-law enforcements should be tailored to improving access to sanitation in this pandemic.
Alex Riolexus Ario,