Prior to the Chinese Lunar New Year of 2020, the 2019 novel coronavirus disease was first reported from Wuhan City of China, and later spread to almost every country.
The disease name was subsequently recommended as COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and later declared as a global health emergency at the end of January 2020. The pandemic is having a profound effect on all aspects of society economically, socially and psychologically.
In Uganda, the Government has responded by inventing means on how to curb the rapid spread of the virus ranging from; social distancing, sanitizing, temporary lockdown of businesses, schools, recreation centers and boarders. The virus indeed has robbed the world with so many liberties that cannot go unexplained and talked about, but how do we prepare for recovery?
While progress in responding to outbreaks has undeniably been made, there is however need to align these efforts to fight the virus in recovery strategies and life after.
When response measures are being implemented, the factor of resilience should not be overlooked as it’s undeniably a prerequisite to recovery. In her interview with CNN, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva called upon governments to invest in health in order to prevent future outbreaks like the COVID-19.
She further advised counties to prepare for recovery and post COVID-19 societies through ensuring balanced and stronger societies where solidarity prevails. Furthermore, there is need to safe guard maternal and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) during recovery. COVID-19 pandemic came with a lot of unprecedented challenges even in matters concerning maternal and SRH rights.
When the Government of Uganda announced the first lockdown of 14 days, pregnant women and patients on drugs like Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ARVs) were majorly affected because they had no transportation means to the health centers.
This is because the nature of the crises and emergency response resulted in de-prioritizing essential health services for girls and women directly threatening their health and rights.
Therefore, as Uganda is shifting towards post COVID-19, funding and access to SRHR, including maternal health services, modern contraception and safe childbirth must be prioritized.
There is need to inspire hope among the population. The tendency of running headlines often instilling fear, prejudice, disgust and hostility through tangled hashtags and names, branding discrimination and fueling panic have led to some people being rendered hopeless thus cases of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
Evidence suggests that the Internet, by its very nature, could amplify and relay such information swiftly worldwide, causing exaggerated panic and worsening stigmatization against people in the epicenter of the outbreak.
The past months since the outbreak of the COVID-19 have witnessed an explosive growth of stigmatization against patients and countries with majority patients, which has also found ways in the daily communication of people especially regarding to individuals who had visited the epicenters of the virus, in Uganda and the diaspora.
Thus, there is a required need to build solidarity among communities to brave the outbreaks with a renewed mind and hope of better days rather than instilling fear and branding stigmatization.
Finally, there is also a need to look at the impact of policies to manage the pandemic on unemployment and poverty, which play a role in domestic violence, mental health and other criminal offences.
In addition, among other priorities in response to the COVID-19, it is important to explore ways people have found to cope with the pandemic, and urgently find ways to support resilience and recovery, particularly in vulnerable groups as well as the whole economy at large.
Deborah Sarah Nakirijja
Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan China