Uganda: Population movement
Escalating conflict in eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has triggered a large-scale displacement of refugees across the border into Uganda. Tens of thousands of people have fled since late March 2022, many with limited or no possessions, and basic social services in the settlements are struggling to cope with the increased demand. Through this Emergency Appeal, the IFRC is supporting the Uganda Red Cross Society to scale up its support to refugees—specifically its provision ofshelter, essential household items, health care, and water and sanitation services.
| Press release
Ebola in Uganda: Red Cross and community members fight the virus’s spread
Nairobi/Kampala/Geneva, 13 October 2022 – Uganda is currently facing an outbreak of the Ebola Viral Disease (EVD). The first case of the EVD was reported on 20th September 2022 and the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) immediately activated an Ebola Preparedness and response program to fight the spread.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an Emergency Appeal to scale up these activities—targeting 2.7 million people.
Robert Kwesiga, Uganda Red Cross Secretary General, said:
“We have trained our volunteers to conduct safe and dignified burials and carry out health promotion activities. We are engaging communities directly with information about Ebola symptoms and how to prevent further risk, including early detection of new cases”.
The last Ebola outbreak in Uganda was in 2020, when more than ten districts experienced the virus’s wrath, particularly areas neighbouring the country’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Regular cross-border communications, information sharing, and support helps mitigate risk and enables Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in neighbouring countries to conduct effective readiness activities and scale up their responses, if necessary.
Papa Moussa Tall, IFRC Head of Delegation for Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan said:
“The Ebola virus is devastating for families, but I am relieved that we are able to offer experienced teams and lessons learned from past outbreaks to help. The IFRC—through our Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF)—has activated resources to support the Uganda Red Cross to quickly respond and save lives”.
The IFRC urgently seeks CHF 10 million to address gaps and procure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for URCS staff and volunteers, who are at the forefront of the Ebola response. IFRC’s appeal will help address these and other needs, such as building the URCS team’s capacity to manage safe and dignified burials.
Tall added: “The Red Cross has deployed ambulances to the most affected districts to support quick evacuation of probable cases to the nearest Ebola treatment centres”.
The Uganda Red Cross has more than 500,000 volunteers and members spread across 51 branches and over 300 staff members including a skilled health department with health experts in areas directly linked to the epidemic response. The IFRC’s Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3) is currently being implemented, with focus on community epidemic and pandemic preparedness. The Uganda Red Cross is part of the task force that leads the response efforts as the country puts up a fight against the epidemic.
For more information, please contact:
In Kampala: Irene Nakasiita, +256 755000695 / 774382583, [email protected]
In Nairobi: Rita Nyaga, +254 110 837154, [email protected]
In Geneva: Jenelle Eli, +1-202-603-6803, [email protected]
Uganda: Ebola virus disease
The Ugandan Ministry of Health declared a new outbreak of Ebola on 20 September 2022. To prevent the virus from spreading throughout the country, the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) is supporting with contact tracing, community-based surveillance, risk communication and community engagement, ambulance services, and safe and dignified burials. Through this Emergency Appeal, the IFRC is supporting the URCS to scale up its activities, targeting a total of 2.7 million people. We are also working with Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in neighbouring countries to help them prepare in case the outbreak spreads.
The Uganda Red Cross Society
| Press release
East Africa: Red Cross raises the alarm over a “triple menace” of floods, COVID-19 and locusts
Nairobi/Geneva, 20 May 2020—A series of mutually exacerbating disasters is unfolding in East Africa, on a scale rarely seen in decades, warned the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Ongoing heavy rain—which has killed nearly 300 and displaced about 500,000 people—has slowed down operations aimed at controlling the worst locust crisis in decades and increased the risk of the spread of COVID-19.
Dr Simon Missiri, IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa said:
“The ongoing flooding crisis is exacerbating other threats caused by COVID-19 and the invasion of locusts. Travel and movement restrictions meant to slow down the spread of COVID-19 are hampering efforts to combat swarms of locusts that are ravaging crops. Flooding is also a ‘threat amplifier’ with regards to the spread of COVID-19 as it makes it hard to implement preventive measures.”
Flooding has left thousands of people homeless, many of them now seeking shelter in temporary accommodation centres where it is not easy or not possible at all to observe physical distancing. As a result, thousands are now at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or waterborne diseases and need emergency food assistance.
“We are facing an unusually complex humanitarian situation. We are worried that the number of people who are hungry and sick will increase in the coming weeks as flooding and COVID-19 continue to severely affect the coping capacity of many families in the region,” added Dr Missiri. “Harsh weather conditions are having a multiplier effect on an already difficult situation and this could potentially lead to worrying levels of food insecurity in the region.”
Red Cross teams in the affected countries are rushing to respond to multi-faceted and overlapping crises. To respond to flooding, COVID-19 and locusts, the IFRC has provided over 7 million Swiss francs to Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in East and Horn of Africa.
Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda are helping communities mitigate the negative impacts of the triple disaster through community awareness and direct food and non-food support. In Kenya, the Red Cross is conducting assessments in 16 counties, using drones and satellite images. Red Cross teams are also airlifting household items to families that have been marooned by floods.
“Flooding is a recurrent phenomenon in the region. To break this cycle, we call upon Governments and partners to invest more in preparedness and flood control methods,” said Dr MISSIRI.
Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2020
The Empress Shôken Fund is named after Her Majesty the Empress of Japan, who proposed – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime. It is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains close contact with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute in Japan.
The Fund has a total value of over 16 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to benefit their communities in various ways. The first grant was awarded in 1921, to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. The Fund has assisted more than 160 National Societies thus far.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is shown by the regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are usually announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of her death. This year the announcement is being published earlier owing to the Easter holidays.
The selection process
The Empress Shôken Fund received 36 applications in 2020, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies in every region of the world. This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 400,160 Swiss francs to 14 projects in Argentina, Bulgaria, Greece, Iraq, Lithuania, Montenegro, Namibia, Palestine, Panama, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uganda.
The projects to be supported in 2020 cover a number of themes, including first aid, youth engagement and disaster preparedness. Moreover, nearly all of the selected projects seek to strengthen the volunteer base of National Societies, with a view to building on the unique role played by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in communities everywhere. The Fund encourages new and innovative approaches that are geared towards learning, so that the broader Movement can benefit from project findings.
The 2020 grants
TheArgentine Red Crosshas launched a generational change in its leadership by promoting volunteers’ access to decision-making bodies. It will use the grant to design and build virtual courses, creating new spaces for dialogue and debate.
For years, the Bulgarian Red Cross has been a major partner of the State in the field of first aid, helping it to respond effectively in a crisis. The National Society will use the grant to reinforce its leadership position by introducing an online first-aid training platform that will facilitate theoretical learning and increase the number of trained first-aiders.
The Hellenic Red Cross seeks to empower local communities in vulnerable or isolated areas. The grant will go towards establishing branch and community disaster teams that will build communities’ resilience through activities and training around disaster risk reduction.
In Iraq, late detection of breast cancer is common and makes the disease much deadlier. To save women’s lives, theIraqi Red Crescent Societywill use the grant to train female volunteers who will raise awareness of early detection methods for breast cancer.
The Lithuanian Red Cross will put the grant towards an innovative digital platform for evaluating the impact of its first-aid courses, issuing and tracking certifications, and connecting with first-aiders after they complete their training.
Young people account for more than 80% of the volunteers of the Red Cross of Montenegro. The National Society will use the grant to improve its activities and services with the aim of strengthening youth participation and raising awareness of volunteer opportunities.
As Namibia’s population grows, first-aid skills and services are more in demand than ever before. The grant will enable the Namibia Red Cross to run intensive first-aid training and certification courses in ten schools.
To better serve the communities it works with, thePalestine Red Crescent Society seeks to build its staff members’ and volunteers’ capacities. It will use the grant to establish a computer lab as a continuing-education unit for all of its staff and volunteers.
In Panama, gang violence has shot up in recent years, and pollution continues to grow owing to a lack of public awareness. The Red Cross Society of Panama will use the grant to develop a series of activities aimed at promoting a culture of peace and environmental responsibility.
Blood transfusion services are an essential component of Sierra Leone’s health-care system. The grant will enable the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society to increase access to safe blood products, especially for pregnant woman and infants.
In Timor-Leste, 70% of the population is under 30 years old, but accessing information about reproductive health can be difficult, particularly in rural areas. The Timor Leste Red Cross will use the grant for a public-awareness and education campaign for young people on reproductive health.
The Tonga Red Cross Society will use the grant to improve students' access to health care and physical activity by using safer vehicles for transportation.
The Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society is exploring novel approaches to teaching disaster preparedness and increasing public awareness on the subject. The grant will enable the National Society to use virtual-reality technology to teach the public about the reality and impact of disasters.
In Uganda, 70% of blood donors are students, so the country faces blood shortages outside term time. The Uganda Red Cross Society will use the grant to develop its online recruitment of adult blood donors so as to counteract any seasonal shortfalls during the holidays.
Uganda has had enough triggers to provoke disaster risk management legislation
By Agnes Ndaaba
The rainy season in Uganda brings mixed feelings and reactions. To some, it is welcome while to others, it spells doom and awakens very bad memories. In April, Buyende District was at the receiving end of Mother Nature following heavy rain and the resultant floods led to many people losing their lives and several properties destroyed.
But perhaps the most affected area by heavy rain is Bududa District in eastern Uganda. In 2010, it was reported that about 100 people lost their lives following a mudslide resulting from heavy rain. In 2018 again in Bududa District, it was reported that a number of people were killed in a mudslide after heavy rain. Then early this month, Bududa was back in the news again for the same reason.
I visited Bududa in April and spoke to a number of residents. Children and adults expressed similar concerns - fearing that the rainy season was about to start and they were most likely to witness another mudslide. Memories of their friends, family and property that were lost to the mudslides in Bukalasi were still fresh in their mind.
I saw very large boulders, some seemingly still firmly grounded, but hanging so dangerously; coffee and banana plantations on the steep slopes and not so strong buildings belonging to residents. It even started raining when I was still there and I couldn’t stop imagining the boulders and everything else tumbling down, and it was a scary thought.
I was curious to know why these people, very aware of the dangers they co-habit with, would not relocate to safer areas during rainy seasons and return later. Among the responses they gave was that Bukalasi is extremely fertile for crop growing, and evidently so. Besides, these people have ancestral and cultural attachments from which they do not want to be divorced. A more fascinating disclosure was that a number of them that get resettled eventually return to their homes. This makes the resettlement efforts by the Office of the Prime Minister quite ineffective.
While I have dwelt much on mudslides and landslides, Uganda faces other disasters, including, but not limited to refugee influx, civil strife, famine as a result of drought specially in the north-eastern parts of the country.
Others are earthquakes, armed conflict, disease epidemics, and terrorism, all of which increase vulnerability of Ugandans by the day. Currently, Uganda is grappling with a possible Ebola outbreak with a few reported positive cases at the border with the DR Congo.
One would rightly argue that Uganda has had more than enough triggers to provoke an expedited development of a comprehensive legislative framework on disaster risk management.
One that among others assigns authorities and responsibilities to individuals and/or institutions, but sadly, there is none. The closest there is being the National Policy on Disaster Preparedness and Management (2011), whose goal is to “establish institutions and mechanisms that will reduce the vulnerability of people, plants and wildlife to disasters in Uganda.”
However, policies are not binding and we, therefore, see continued reliance on several sectoral laws, which however, are lacking in a number of aspects. The problems that usually arise out of disaster are very complex and require a comprehensive and coordinated management policy and legislation, and the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) notes that “without a comprehensive and binding legal directive that obliges actors and agencies to take action, the natural inertia of bureaucracies means that non-specified essential tasks are unlikely to be undertaken.”
A cursory look at the four priority areas of the Sendai Framework for DRR (2015-2030) under which Uganda operates reveals that Uganda has made significant progress on the four priorities of the framework, having put in place National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, functional Disaster Management Committees at district level, and a functional National Emergency Coordination and Operations Centre (NECOC), but there is need for a legislation, to further strengthen the established institutions and to increase accountability.
The checklist for Disaster Risk Reduction legislation developed jointly by the International Federation of the Red Cross and the UNDP calls for a legislation that prioritises risk reduction; establishes clear roles and responsibilities related to risk reduction for all relevant institutions from national to local level; and ensures that sufficient resources are budgeted for disaster risk reduction.
Also establishes clear procedures and responsibilities for risk assessments; establishes clear procedures and responsibilities for early warning; requires education, training and awareness-raising to promote a ‘whole of society approach’ to DRR; ensures the engagement of all relevant stakeholders in risk reduction decisions and activities; addresses gender concerns and the special needs of particularly vulnerable categories of persons; and puts in place adequate mechanisms to ensure that responsibilities are fulfilled and rights are protected. It goes without saying that the lack of a disaster risk management legislation by the government fails Ugandans on all the foregoing fronts.
Three years down the road, the Office of the Prime Minister is still in the process of formulating a national disaster management Bill. It is about time probably that a motion to introduce a Private Members Bill on DRR was brought to and debated in Parliament.
Ms Ndaaba is a Disaster Law Project manager/In-House Legal Counsel, Uganda Red Cross Society. [email protected]
| Press release
Red Cross on alert as Uganda confirms first Ebola case
Kampala/Nairobi/Geneva, 12 June – Red Cross teams are on high alert following the confirmation of the first Ebola case in Uganda.
According to the Ministry of Health, a five-year-old boy from Uganda returned from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) on 10 June. The child presented with Ebola symptoms and was transferred to an Ebola treatment unit in Bwera.
Robert Kwesiga, Uganda Red Cross Secretary General, said:
“This is a worrying development, but we have been preparing for this day for months now. We have been scaling up our efforts, in close coordination with government and other actors to help communities prepare for Ebola, and to contain its spread.”
The Uganda border is close to the epicentre of the DR Congo outbreak, which is now the second largest Ebola outbreak ever recorded.
Uganda Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has trained hundreds of community-based volunteers in anticipation of the potential spread of Ebola. Volunteers have been trained in Ebola screening, as well as in risk communication and community engagement, community-based surveillance, and psychosocial support. In addition, Red Cross has procured equipment for safe and dignified burials and has provided training and technical support to Ministry of Health which will lead on the delivery of safe and dignified burials in Uganda.
Andreas Sandin, IFRC Operations Coordinator, said:
“We are ready to adapt and expand our support, but we must take stock of the lessons we have learned from the response in DR Congo.
“Epidemics and pandemics start and end in the communities – we need to ensure this remains a community-led response to ensure we prevent Ebola’s further spread.”
IFRC is also supporting the National Red Cross Societies of Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan to prepare for the potential spread of Ebola into their countries.
Early detection, early action: preventing DRC’s Ebola outbreak from spreading into nearby Uganda
Written by Aggrey Nyondwa, Uganda Red Cross
Communities living along the porous borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remain at high risk of the spread of Ebola. Thousands cross each day to sell and buy goods, tend to their farm and visit family and friends. With the epicenter of DRC’s largest Ebola outbreak only 100 kilometers away from the Ugandan border, it is crucial to contain and stop the virus from spreading.
Uganda Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been scaling up its response to help prepare communities and to prevent the spread of the virus. Volunteers are in high-risk areas, sensitizing communities about Ebola – providing information about the virus, what they can do to protect themselves, and screening the thousands of individuals who cross the border each day. Community engagement through music, drama, and mobile cinemas have also been employed to reach thousands of people.
“We would like to see communities that can easily detect diseases, potential epidemics and communities that can respond in case epidemics occur,” said Dr. Kasumba Joseph, Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program Officer with the Uganda Red Cross.
“Most importantly we want communities that can actually prevent these epidemics. We are doing this through our volunteers.”
Karungi Shamillahis a Uganda Red Cross volunteer trained to educate families about Ebola and other health issues in her community.Photo: IFRC/Corrie Butler
Halting the virus before its spread through a real-time mobile system
Through Uganda Red Cross’ extensive network of community-based volunteers, a powerful surveillance system has been set up, in coordination with other actors and the Ministry of Health. This system helps stop the virus’ spread, detecting outbreaks before they happen.
Uganda Red Cross has trained community-based volunteers to recognize the signs of potential Ebola illness and to alert the authorities for follow up and care of people with such signs. With the help of the ‘Kobo Collect’ Mobile App, these cases are logged and are instantly shared with local health authorities for rapid action. If a case is detected the person can receive prompt treatment and the disease can be contained. This enables the reporting of any epidemic alerts in real time with low costs and resources.
“These communities being near the border are quite vulnerable. We have a lot of movement across the border, especially on market days, the risk of an Ebola outbreak is imminent,” says Kasumba, based in Bundibugyo.
“We have now trained 50 community-based volunteers who are using this technology as a surveillance tool to help prevent the threat of Ebola in Uganda.”
Only weeks after the training, volunteers have already started working in their communities where they hold sessions with community members and sensitize them about Ebola. Others, like Mugenyi Adam, have already sent out alerts to their supervisor.
“I have so far sent two alerts to my supervisor. I am proud that the community trusts me already and in case of any suspicions, I am the first one they call. This is what makes me proud – the response is so, so fast.”
He recalls one alert he submitted after conducting door to door community sensitization:
“A lady called me and told me her grand-daughter was sick, showing some of the symptoms of Ebola. I called my supervisor and informed him about it. I was amazed to see a response in just 25 minutes. They checked on the girl, took her to hospital and fortunately she tested negative for Ebola. I kept checking on the family to ensure that they were doing the right hygiene practices. I am so proud, I believe I saved her life.”
In Bundibugyo district, volunteers are conducting, what is called “passive” community-based surveillance. This means volunteers report alerts as they encounter them in the community while they conduct community health awareness activities. During large scale outbreaks, surveillance moves into an “active” phase where volunteers proactively reach out door-to-door ensuring alerts are quickly identified for a faster, more effective response.
Community-based surveillance, on its own, is not enough: coordination is key
Well before the community-based surveillance system was launched through the IFRC’s Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3), significant coordination was done with stakeholders, including government ministries, health care workers, sectors for animal health, agriculture and environment, development partners, civil society, and the communities themselves.
“We have been trained in this approach by the Red Cross and we have worked closely with them to tackle community epidemics in this region. Given that Ebola is the major threat at the moment, all efforts have been focused on prevention and preparedness because of our proximity to neighboring Congo where Ebola has already killed many people,” said Dr. Samson Ndyanabaisi, the District Veterinary Officer in Bundibugyo district.
“The future of this project is very bright and the government always welcomes such support and collaborations.”
Communities remain at the heart of preparedness
With epidemics and pandemics continuing to take place around the world, it is increasingly important to ensure communities are prepared to respond in order to stop outbreaks early. Ebola is only one of the many health risks that IFRC’s CP3 is helping combat. The vision is that Uganda will use this as a model and continue to expand it to other epidemic and pandemic risks that are faced in the community, such as cholera or measles.
“As the Red Cross, we’re very strong at mobilizing to support communities when something happens. We’re one of the first who are there to take action. But we can do better than this,” explains Abbey Byrne, Community Based Surveillance Delegate with the IFRC.
“We’re also there before the epidemic. We can halt the spread instead of reacting once these diseases have already reached epidemic proportions.”
There is no one who understands a community more than its own. When challenges arise, they are the ones best suited to come up with the solutions. During epidemics, these community members are the first to respond and can, ultimately, save lives.
More about the CP3 programme
Launched in 2017 with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), IFRC’s Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3) scales up efforts towards global health security. The program strengthens the ability of communities, National Societies and other partners in 8 target countries to prevent, detect and respond to disease threats and play a significant role in preparing for future risks.