Advance Journal of Virology, Epidemic and Pandemic Diseases

COVID-19 pandemic, challenges, and opportunities in Northern Uganda; Community overview and perspectives: A qualitative study using informant interviews


Eric Nzirakaindi Ikoona, Johnson Nyeko Oloya, Christopher Okot, Steven Baguma, Nelson Onira Alema, Freddy Wathum Drinkwater Oyat, Paska Apiyo, Paska Layet, Francis Pebalo Pebolo, Denis Acullu, Judith Aloyo and David Lagoro Kitara*

Background: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), a virus that causes COVID-19, has overwhelmingly interrupted human activities worldwide, especially in the low-to-middle income countries. Not much is reported about exclusive challenges and opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic in some remote communities in Africa.

Objective: The objective of this study was to assess the community’s views and perspectives on the challenges and opportunities of the COVID-19 pandemic in Northern Uganda.

Methods: We interviewed 36 participants (age range, 28-63 years), including health workers, civil servants, members of civil society, security forces, politicians and staff of local government administration who were members of COVID-19 district task forces in Northern Uganda using qualitative study methods between August and September 2021. The initial selection of participants was purposeful, but the snowballing technique was later used to select others. The interview questions were pre-tested among health workers and laypersons who were not part of the main study. Participants described how the COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges and opportunities, and the experience could be used to strengthen community resolves to control the pandemic and any other in the future. A local IRB approved this study. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results: The current study findings revealed challenges but many opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic in this community, including loss of lives and livelihoods,increased poverty, lack of personal protection equipment, uncertainties, stress, and anxiety among health workers in the community. However, it also offered opportunities for quality family time, increased engagement, sensitization, and mobilization of communities for health, improved general security of persons and property, increased budgets and logistics for government departments, reduced incidences of diarrheal diseases and road traffic accidents, increased incomes for task force members, and more interactions among members during task force meetings.

Conclusion: Although the COVID-19 pandemic presented enormous challenges to low- to-middle-income countries, there are opportunities in some communities that are worth mentioning. Information obtained in this study has practical lessons that disease control experts could use to develop strategies to organize communities better and conduct disease surveillance activities for the COVID-19 pandemic and others.


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