THE COVID-19 CRISIS
As the COVID 19 pandemic furies around the world, Gender-based violence drives high and women and girls are more vulnerable to abuse than ever. This has had serious consequences for women’s health since the pandemic has disrupted access to sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence services at a time when women and girls need these services most”.
ABOUT COVID-19 IN UGANDA
The president of Uganda regulated the movement of persons and vested the powers of authorization to the Resident City Commissioners (RCC) Resident District Commander (RDCs) and sub-county chiefs for all those seeking medical care including expectant mothers whose condition often require emergency health care.
As the country has closed schools and set travel restrictions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, women are facing the burden of balancing childcare and having to sleep at workplaces as per the presidential directive, let alone full-filling other marital obligations as married women. Few men will let their wives sleep out of their home, an act that has triggered gender-based violence and those who have persisted to go back home have been caught up by the curfew hours and ended up being flogged by security personals.
IMPACT OF COVID-19 TO COMMUNITIES
Health care systems have been forced to channel all of their resources to combat the epidemic since it is perceived to be more pressing, despite the persistent need for adequate family planning, menstrual health resources, maternal care, and protection of women from violence.
Movement restriction and lockdown while helpful in stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus has left women in abusive relationships trapped at home during the lockdown with the abuser, women usually use the gap of free movement time they need to escape the house, but the possibility of being locked up with the abuser for hours is something that should worry us all.
- The protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls should be prioritized. While listing the essential services the president did not priorities legal and psychosocial services for survivors of gender-based violence. The government needs to prioritize services for the prevention and response and mitigate the consequences of all forms of violence against women and girls.
- Ensure that access to sexual and reproductive health services including contraceptive services is maintained, with special attention to women particularly in the context of self-isolation, when levels of intimate partner violence upsurge especially when families are placed under increased stress and relations are forced to live in confined spaces.
- We are also calling for priority testing of pregnant women with COVID-19 symptoms, isolation of pregnancy wards from confirmed COVID-19 cases, an elevation of care for many pregnant women with respiratory illnesses, and extra care for all women in delivery, in case breathing complications should arise.
- APPCO First Response: Training first responders: APPCO took the first approach in identifying the first responders and trained on COVID-19 measures including training in basic response to GBV, including adolescent-friendly communication techniques and specific issues related to adolescent girls, such as early marriage during #stayathome. Over 480 first responders were trained in 120 communities.
- Providing girls with dignity/hygiene kits. For many adolescent girls, menstruation has been challenging to navigate during #stayathome, and many girls experienced their first periods during this time. APPCO also provided washing facilities as issues related to girl’s access to communal WASH facilities and their ability to wash and access sanitary products was challenging.