Lack of soap in rural areas hindering COVID-19 fight

By Edwin Muhumuza

A recent survey has revealed that Access to water is not an issue but rather not having enough soap is a problem among the poorest households in Uganda.

This is according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) High-Frequency Phone Survey on COVID-19 in tracking the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on households.

Among other issues was that 33% of households could no longer buy medicine while 19% could not access medical treatment when needed.

69.4% were working by the survey time while 17% who were working are no longer working according to Steven Baryahirwa, the Director Economic surveys at UBOS.

The overall estimated economic Gross output went down by 21% in the month of April 2020 as business closed operations within the same period.

The survey with support from the World Bank on the impact of the Corvid-19 pandemic on businesses has revealed that the formal economy excluding finance and insurance services decreased from 7.3 trillion in March to 5.8 trillion in April.

At sector level, the worst hit are creative, arts & entertainment activities at 93% followed by construction at 77%, accommodation and food services at 70% and Mining at 69.7%

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, 87% of households have reported reduced income (or no earnings) from at least one of their sources of livelihood.

Dr.Chris Mukiza, the executive Director ,UBOS said that on a monthly basis for a period of 12 months the survey aimed to recontact the entire sample of households that had been interviewed during the Uganda National Panel Survey (UNPS) 2019/20 round and that had phone numbers for at least one household member or a reference individual.

Of 2,421 households that were attempted to be interviewed, 2,259 were successfully interviewed, representing 93 percent of the initial target sample. Gender distribution of the respondents was close to parity.

In regard to knowledge of COVID-19 symptoms, the study showed that it is still far from universal. The most frequent COVID-19 symptoms such as dry cough, fever and shortness of breath were in fact not mentioned by all respondents.

Eighty three percent of respondents reported dry cough to be a COVID-19 symptom, and there were no significant differences in reporting by the level of respondent’s education. On the other hand, while fever was mentioned by 67% of respondents, the awareness of this symptom was significantly lower among those that never attended school (48%).

Only 36% of respondents named shortness of breath as a COVID-19 symptom and almost nobody mentioned loss of smell or taste (4%).

Relatedly, awareness of preventive measures is quite high, but with some variation across rural/urban areas and pre-COVID-19 consumption quintiles based on UNPS 2019/20.

The respondents were well-informed about the important preventive measures such as hand washing (100%), avoiding gatherings (98%), wearing a mask (95%), social distancing (91%) and avoiding touching the face (87%). Key preventive measures such as hand washing and social distancing were universally known.