As Uganda celebrates the end of a deadly Ebola virus outbreak, health officials are praising the work of a local organization that advocates for LBQ sex workers to help prevent the spread of the virus among a vulnerable sector of the population.
By Joto La Jiwe
On 11 January, the government of Uganda officially declared the end of the country’s Ebola virus outbreak, less than four months after the first case was confirmed in the country’s central District of Mubende on 20 September 2022. At least 77 people are believed to have died after contracting the virus during the outbreak.
The Organization for Gender Empowerment and Rights Advocacy (OGERA Uganda) with support from American Jewish World Service (AJWS) ran a successful campaign to fight the spread of the Ebola virus in Uganda through ‘Peer Navigators’ who spread awareness in different hotspots on the ground and online.
According to the Executive Director OGERA Shamilah Batte, Ebola transmission placed sex workers at a higher risk of acquiring the virus, so there was an urgent need to come up with preparedness, prevention and mitigation strategies.
“We realized that the sex worker community, especially LBQ and urban refugees, was very vulnerable due to the generally hostile environment they live in and the limited knowledge and understanding of how Ebola is transmitted, the signs and symptoms, and the preventive strategies. We thus felt the urgent need to save our community from Ebola by creating awareness and initiating preventive mechanisms,” says Batte.
“We also developed summarized directorates with information about available Ebola Treatment Units and response mechanisms, including services available, locations and contact persons in Kyegegwa, Kampala and Wakiso districts,” she says.
During the campaign, OGERA initiated conversations about Ebola among the sex worker community by conducting Ebola-related hotspot-based sensitization dialogues in various hotspots of Kyegegwa, Wakiso, and Kampala Districts of operation.
During one of the dialogues, one of the beneficiaries said she was thankful for the opportunity to learn about Ebola, noting that she can now protect herself, stay healthy, and continue taking care of her family since they have only her to rely on.
OGERA also engaged the Health Officers and Key Populations (KP) focal persons in Kyegegwa District to ensure that all sex workers, including the LBQ women, living and operating in the district can access Ebola-related services without being stigmatized, discriminated against, or victimized in any way.
District Health Officer of the Kyegegwa District, Dr. Kandole Tedson, says OGERA’s work was important in helping protect sex workers from Ebola.
“It is indeed very important to sensitize the KPs on Ebola so that they can understand how to protect themselves, given that they are the most vulnerable group. I commend OGERA for fronting the Ebola campaign targeting especially the most vulnerable group of sex workers in the district,” Tedson says.
Although the outbreak in Uganda has been declared over, health authorities are maintaining surveillance and are readiness to respond quickly to any flare-ups. A follow-up program has been put in place to support survivors.
Joto La Jiwe, the author of this article, is a Ugandan correspondent for the African Human Rights Media Network. He writes under a pseudonym. Contact him at [email protected]
Source: African Human Rights Media Network member Erasing 76 Crimes.