The level of Ebola preparedness in Kampala is still low despite the confirmation of three cases in Kasese district early this month. The three Ebola victims entered Uganda from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through the porous border.
They included a 50-year-old woman and two boys aged 5 and 3 years. They had traveled to DRC to care for a relative suffering from the Ebola, a deadly viral disease. Following the confirmation of the three cases, the Health Ministry placed the country on the high alert for Ebola.
The Ministry has repeatedly been urging the public to maintain hygiene by washing hands with soap or disinfectants to contain the spread of the disease. Our reporters visited a number of public places in Kampala on Monday to ascertain the implementation of the ministry guidelines.
However, most of the places visited neither had hand washing nor hand sanitizer facilities. The few that had the facilities were not enforcing usage. At Serena Hotel, hand sanitizer dispensers have been mounted at all gates and inside the hotel and conference halls.
However, no one is there to enforce usage. A guard at one of the entrance points said she only gives it to those who want it. “If you want, I can press for you and you get some. It will keep your hands clean,” she told this publication.
There was no hand washing facilities or sanitizers at Imperial Royale Hotel. The head of marketing, Jim Kasavubu, said they don’t have plans to install such facilities since they will cause panic and scare aware their customers.
“Already we have some cancellations following the news of Ebola cases in Uganda. If we install those things at the hotel people will likely become worried. The ministry of health and WHO have all said that here are no cases of Ebola in the country. So why should we put measures?,” he asked.
At the old and new taxi parks in downtown Kampala, there were no posters or hand washing facilities during the visit by our reporters. At the bus parks in Kisenyi and Namayiba, there too was no kind of health awareness.
Saturday Muhwezi, the operations and Security manager, Kisenyi Bus Terminal, said they are going to start sensitization campaigns using posters following an interaction with KCCA staff.
Bonifca Ssebulime, a booking clerk of Freedom busses in Kisenyi bus terminal, said government needs to ensure that people are sensitized about the disease.
“Government should provide hand washing facilities at the bus entrances and also sensitize people. Because right not, only a few people are trying to keep safe by avoiding hand shaking. But not everyone is doing this. Something needs to be done,” he said.
Lillian Bakundani, a business woman and passenger travelling to Mbarara using Global bus, said she was scared about the disease and would avoid sitting near people during her journey.
Joseph Kato, a man found downtown Kampala, said there was need for government to put in place additional measures to keep Ebola out of Kampala.
Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Senior Public Relations Officer in the Health Ministry, said they are working with KCCA to try and sensitize the masses about the deadly disease. “We are working together with KCCA to do something. We plan on going to all busy public places. So far we are using mass media messages over the radio and TV to call onto the public to be vigilant,” he said.
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Dr. Daniel Okello, the Director of Public Health under Kampala Capital City Authority, said they have concentrated activities in high risk areas. “We have talked to pass and bus operators that ply the Kasese route and sensitized them on how to identify high risk persons. It would not have made sense to sensitize drivers and conductors who ply other routes and are not in immediate danger.”
KCCA is planning to set up isolation facilities at bus terminals where suspected Ebola cases will be screened before being sent to the Ebola Treatment Unit at Naguru hospital. Ebola is a deadly virus that causes fever, body aches, diarrhea and bleeding both inside and outside the body.
The virus if not treated spreads through the body, damaging the immune system and organs. It has a death fatality of 90 percent.