KAMPALA — As the country struggles to contain COVID-19 cases to minimum numbers and with no deaths reported so far, Ugandans have been urged to take bold and unprecedented steps to curtail the spread of the virus.
UNAIDS Country Director in Uganda Dr Karusa Kiragu has noted that while there have been relatively low cases and no death reported due to COVID-19, it is critical to stem the spread of the novel COVID-19 considering the country’s fragile health systems and extreme socio-economic inequalities.
Dr Kiragu was speaking during the handover of hygiene packs to the community of people living with HIV through the National Forum of People Living with HIV Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU), at their offices in Mengo, Kampala on Wednesday.
She called on Ugandans to continue practicing hand washing as a key strategy in the prevention of COVID-19. “The more we continue to leave our homes to go to work, it’s very important to continue observing social distancing, wearing of masks and wash hands, she said, adding: “We all know that the best protection for those at home even those at work or accessing various services is washing hands and disinfecting surfaces that we touch.”
UNAIDS together with Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC (RB) and Dembe Group handed over the packs consisting of a three-months supply of 180,000 105g Dettol soap and 30,000 bottles of 750ml Jik surface cleaner which will be distributed to 10,000 individuals living with HIV/AIDS across the country.
Uganda currently has recorded 1.4 million people living with HIV.
“UNAIDS recognizes the importance of working with communities and putting them at the center. They can mobilize so that people have the correct information; monitor and demand health care services and reach the most vulnerable. As we continue responding to COVID-19, let us remember that each one of us has a role to play in the response” said Dr Kiragu.
According to Reckitt Benckiser country manager in charge of health, Patrick Mpaso, the initiative to distribute the hygiene packs is part of RB’s “Fight for Access Fund”, which aims to improve access to health, hygiene, and nutrition for all. He said the Fight for Access Fund joint venture has seen more than 195,000 hygiene packs distributed to people living with HIV in the eastern and southern African (ESA) region.
Dembe Group, who will be in charge of distributing the packs lauded the intiative. “We are particularly privileged to associate ourselves with UNAIDS and Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC in providing support to communities across Uganda to cope with the different challenges which have been brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The commitment from our company is to continue reaching out to especially vulnerable groups during this difficult time,” said Anil Damani, the CEO Dembe Group.
Presiding over the ceremony was Dr Nelson Musoba, the Director General Uganda AIDS Commission. He said fighting epidemics greatly depends on synergies and solidarity of different individual and institutional efforts. “Like HIV, the COVID-19 pandemic calls for a multi-sectoral response and we see this demonstrated today,” Dr Musoba said.