Maracha – State minister of health for Primary Health Care warns Ugandans of an upsurge of COVID-19 pandemic, the worst, as a result of cross border transportation among communities from the neighbouring countries.
Hon. Joyce Moriku Kaducu, also Moyo Woman MP, notes porous borders with the neighboring countries as loopholes.
“We are yet to see the worst scenario because Uganda is surrounded by countries with very, very high prevalence of COVID-19 pandemic cases” she says.
The minister was addressing Maracha district COVID-19 pandemic taskforce members, Wednesday, during her working tour of West Nile Region.
Her threatening revelations on the possible invasion of COVID-19 pandemic from the neighbourhood came as a response to an observation by Maracha Woman MP. Ayaka Rose Atima that lack of gazetted entry points, people have resorted to using illegally, unmanned routes into the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to Hon. Ayaka, Maracha has about 38km stretch of unmanned porous borderline with DRC which poses great risk to the district.
Hon. Ayaka proposes setting surveillance points at six point to check travelers in order to avoid illegal movement that puts the country at risk.
“We are doing fairly well amidst some challenges but our major problem is the porous borders. Its such along area of 38Km and unfortunately we don’t have any gazetted point. Because of lack of gazetted point, we are neglected in COVID-19 interventions for border district. Health officials needed to be stationed there to check travelers” Hon. Ayaka appeals.
But the minister stresses that there many border entry point that have been closed for security reasons as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There 336 porous points along Uganda border with the neighboring countries that have all been closed with exception of 53 and six of these are in West Nile. This was a matter of security” the minister notes.
She says the closure of entry points along Maracha border with DRC falls under the threats of COVID-19 pandemic transportation into the country along these routes.
“It was a decision made by security but unfortunately our people can’t listen, how much you deploy forces. There is no magical action to be taken but at this point in time, our people need to be disciplined” Hon. Moriku emphasises.
The minister also cites such border challenges in Moyo district where refugees sneak into South Sudan and back to the camps, at the risk of transport COVID-19 infections.
“Whether we like it or not, people continue entering DRC illegally. This also applies to South Sudanese refugees around Lefori area along Moyo-Kaji-keji border area. They sneak every day, how much security is put in place. In the night, they pass through the villages. That’s one of the challenges we go through which is a threat not only in terms of COVID-19 pandemic but also Ebola and other contagious diseases from the neighboring countries” the minister notes.
The minister points at COVID-19 prevalence in South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania, as among those possing threats to Uganda.
“A case in point is South Sudan. They started way back after Uganda but their cases have gone very, very high. A case in point of Tanzania, Kenya and D. R. Congo. So Uganda is surrounded by counties with bad reports” the minister cites.
Attributing current cases to truck drivers, the minister praises Uganda as the only East African Country with low COVID-19 cases, without any death.
” We are the only country in East Africa with very small cases and with no deaths in the community as of today. It may come tomorrow but today, no. All the cases are from truck driver” she recounts.
She appreciates health workers for their dedication and sacrifices to saving lives but tasks citizens to safeguard against
COVID-19 pandemic incursion from the neighbouring counties.
” Two weeks down the road, we have no cases within the community and that speaks a lot. The only cases we have are from truck drivers who come from Tanzania and Kenya. That means the health worker have done their part. When they get positive cases, they manage it and have done very well. The ball and the mantle in the courts of the “wanainci” of Uganda” Hon. Moriku sends an alert signal and sounding a warning at the same time.
“The message running now is, the war against COVID-19 pandemic, is beginning right today and tomorrow. How can we prevent the war which is coming to next to us from Democratic Republic of Congo? the war in South Sudan, in Kenya and Tanzania!” the minster exclaims.
Hon. Moriku comes from a border district and she is well versed with characters of the communities. But the minister ponders of best means to make the local population understand the dangers of defying restrictions on cross border movement of people.
Preaching on the use of facemasks, Hon. Moriku points it as an avenue for Ugandans to keep the virus at bay.
“We are surrounded by the virus, so my message to you is that it’s now me and you to let our country to stay free of COVID-19 pandemic and one of the weapons as directed by the president is the use of facemasks. That is a powerful weapon if we do not want to get the virus in Uganda. Every where you go, be on facemask” the minister emphasises.
She requests members of the DTF to sensitise the public on the use of facemasks in fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.
“Remember to tell our community that we are surrounded by an enemy and the weapon we have is the facemask” she stresses.
Meanwhile, according to Dr. William Woridria, World Health Organisation (WHO) speculated Uganda would have registered about 430 cases of COVID-19 if the leaders didn’t take an intervention.
“According to WHO, by this time we would have had over 430 cases of COVID-19 pandemic if nothing was done but you know there were public Health interventions to stop public transport, schools were closed and then the lockdown came in place, that could be the reason we are talking about 126 cases at this time” says Dr. Worodria, who chairs the national taskforce committee for case management.
He attributes the tremendous achievement of Uganda in fighting COVID-19 pandemic to good leadership and stewardship in the country.
“Our success as a country is attributed to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and good stewardship at the various levels of leadership” Dr. Worodria comments.
Recapitulating the minister, Dr. Worodria warns Uganda is under siege of COVID-19 pandemic invasion from the neighboring countries due to the porous borders.
“As the minister mentioned, we are under siege. If you read stories coming from South Sudan, they are not good at all, from Tanzania, are not good at all and Kenya, the same thing. It’s just from the borders as you say are porous and any time you hear a case of COVID-19” observes Chairperson, case management committee.
Observing the deadliness of the disease, Dr. Worodria urges people to abide by the basic preventive measures set by the President.
“The way COVID-19 pandemic spread, it’s the most contagious disease I have ever witnessed in my life because from one case, within two weeks, you may get one to two hundred other cases. So, when the President says please put on facemask, wash your hands regularly, use sanitizer and keep social distance, these are for a reason. It’s the basic minimum we can do” he emphasises.
Dr. Worodria explains the mysterious aspects of the global pandemic, categorising it as an opportunistic disease.
“You may wonder why Uganda’s outcomes are good. There is so far no body who has died of COVID-19 pandemic, but when you hear countries like Italy, USA among others who have much more robust health care system, the mortality is in thousands and tens of thousands. You don’t fully understand the reasons for that. But, we don’t think we are any different” Dr. Worodria laments.
He suggests age range could have contributed to the mortality gaps between Uganda and those other developed countries.
“Granted the age group we have here is a bit younger. The maiden age of people here is about 35 years and If you go to other countries, it’s about 70, 80 and many in 60s, so, the older you get the more vulnerable you are and COVID-19 for the observation is very opportunistic” the senior medic, analyzes.
He notes many people acting as carriers could be harbouring the diseases and transmitting it to others without trace. Adding that such cases would lead to explosion if the pandemic.
“Many people like you and me moving around might be infected like many of our confirmed patients. You may not manifest severe disease but you can transmit it. So, symptomatic transmitters are important source of concern and there are people of hypertension, heart disease, cancers, chronic lung disease and then they go very fast” he notes.
Categorizing COVID-19 cases as mild, Dr. Worodria counts public health interventions responsible for the achievement, saying there would be challenges of accomodation for COVID-19 pandemic patients.
“Most of the COVID-19 patients are mild but one out of five of them have severe disease that needs attention. If it wasn’t for public health interventions, despite our preparedness, all the facilities would be outstripped by the demand. People would be demitted to none traditional facilities” the case management committee chairperson explains.
According to Dr. Worodria, the reasons for the regional was to asses preparedness COVID-19 taskforce of the respective districts.
“This is the purpose of our assessment of readiness. It’s to look at the scenario where if you get widespread cases of COVID-19, and you get a surge, how prepared are we, the traditional health facilities we have at the moment many may not be enough, as DTF . It’s good to be visionary and think beyond because the schools may not become what we call none none traditional facilities but as per now we are admitting the mild cases to Regional referral Hospital should the pandemic escalate, these facilities Will be for moderate to servers cases who may need oxygen and intensive care.
Today, 14 May 2020, Uganda registered 21 new COVID-19 cases confirmed from 1,593 samples of truck drivers. This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases to 160 in Uganda.
The new cases included Ugandans, Kenyans, Tanzanians and South Sudanese, who arrived via Mutukula, Busia and Elegu borders.