“The COVID-19 pandemic will challenge many of us to work remotely, APPCO staff said. We are rethinking our workplans, and developing new ways of connecting with each other and community members. At this time, strong coordinated emergency response leadership with strong health and safety measures are critical to make us achieve our goal. While it is impossible to anticipate all of the potential repercussions from COVID-19, we are putting our frontline community structures and beneficiaries at the center and supporting staff’s overall wellbeing through open and remote communication work to share about the increased risk of violence against women and girls during pandemic time.

APPCO is a member of district civil society task team and we recently observed that, there are no joint and coordinated efforts among district and partners to efficiently support women and girls as most partners ceased field operations. In addition, monitoring and data collection is completely disrupted making reporting of GBV cases difficult and sometimes go unnoticed. The unprepared disruption of normal field activities implementation especially face-to-face counseling sessions and dialogues has significantly affected the survivor’s recovery process and in some instance increased stigmatization in families due to COVID-19 crisis and pressures.

According to online phone discussions including APPCO GBV response WhatsApp group feedback on COVID-19 situation and home to home visits to faith leaders and GBV activists by field staff a number of gaps were identified resulting to needs which are urgently required to support women and girls especially survivors of sexual violence in Gulu communities. Faith leaders and GBV activists noted that there is need for increased e-couple counseling especially using tablets to enable timely engagement with survivors of sexual violence, online awareness creation using tablets especially through platforms which allow women and girls to openly express themselves to report cases of violence and need to do house to house visits with protective equipment’s can help in timely response to GBV cases during this crisis.

Faith leaders emphasized the need for mega phones that can be installed in communities to rally messages of GBV prevention in families since most people spend more time at home, this may not require direct contact with people but faith leaders and GBV activist will every morning, afternoon and evening communicate messages of GBV prevention and response on air. These are sometimes called “community radios” hence providing avenues for improved reporting and house to house visits for dialogue and counseling.