Religious and cultural beliefs hamper the fight against Ebola – Health officials

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HEALTH | EBOLA | STRUGGLE

Religious and cultural beliefs are undermining Ebola control efforts in Kassanda district, said Dr. John Baptist Waniaye, commissioner of emergency medical services at the Ministry of Health.

Kassanda and neighboring Mubende district are in lockdown as they are the epicentres of the current strain circulating in the country known as Sudan Ebola virus, for which there is currently no vaccine.

“Cases are increasing in Kassanda due to certain cultural and traditional behaviors. We have received reports that most people in this district are exhuming the bodies that our health workers have buried, arguing that we do not respect their religious values ​​or traditions when we bury their loved ones,” he said.

Dr Waniaye made the remarks on October 29 during an appearance on Urban TV’s weekly morning talk show, Press Wall, hosted by Umaru Kashaka.

Saturday’s two-hour show, which starts at 9:00 a.m., also featured Dr Herbert Luswata, Secretary General of the Uganda Medical Association, and Anne Lumbasi, Senior Program Officer at the Center for Health, Human Rights man and development.

As of October 31, there have been 130 confirmed cases of Ebola, including 43 deaths.

“So when our health team left the area, they go back and exhume the bodies to do what they call the standard burial process, and that increased the number of contacts of people with Ebola,” said said Dr. Waniaye.

He called on Uganda’s mufti, Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubaje, to issue a statement urging people to refrain from washing the bodies of people who die of Ebola.

“Our investigations so far have linked the 13 people we admitted to Mubende hospital to the two bodies that were exhumed and reburied by these people,” he said.

On October 16, President Yoweri Museveni declared a 21-day lockdown for these two districts and banned traditional healers and religious leaders from trying to treat cases of people with Ebola-like symptoms.

Dr Waniaye said they have started engaging community leaders to make sure “we are on top of the game”.

He said the other problem hampering the fight against the deadly virus in Kassanda was the reluctance of community leaders, including those at district and sub-county level, to attend their meetings convened in the district by the Minister of Health, Dr. Ruth Aceng, to educate them.

“At our last meeting on Thursday (October 27), we saw a gap: community leaders do not see this flow of infection within their community as a threat, but they see the government restricting their freedom of movement. , there is a great need for community engagement there,” he said.

Lockdown has an impact.

Dr Waniaye said the lockdown in the two districts had had a huge impact on the fight against Ebola.

He said that before the start of the current Ebola outbreak on September 20, the main district contributing to the number of cases was Mubende, and within this district, the main sub-counties were Madudu and Kiruuma, as well as the divisions south and east.

“In Mubende, we reached a point where we were receiving seven cases a day, whereas in Kassanda we were recording one or none a day, but now the situation has changed. On average, we now receive two to three cases in Mubende , while in Kassanda we are receiving three to five cases. people exposed to the virus looking for contracts.

23 infected

On November 1, Dr Geofrey Bwire, deputy commissioner at the Ministry of Health, said that when specialist funeral teams bury those who have died of Ebola, Kassanda residents exhume the bodies at night to perform rituals on them.

“About two weeks ago, our teams buried someone in Kalwana village, Kikandwa sub-county, who had succumbed to Ebola, but the locals waited for him to leave, and at night they exhumed the body and performed funeral rituals over it.” Since the bodies of those who died of Ebola are highly contagious, many people have been infected,” he said at an Ebola response meeting in Kassanda.

He said following the exhumation, 23 confirmed cases were recorded out of a total of 42 in the district, adding that 546 contacts were traced from that burial.

Dr Ruth Aceng, Minister of Health, warned people against exhuming the bodies, saying they risked wiping out the people of the district.

“Communities need to understand that these bodies are highly contagious.” “This is the message that leaders need to take to communities,” she told the district meeting.

Dr Luswata thanked the President for imposing a lockdown in the two districts. “This limited movement helped a lot because initially we had patients escaping from these districts to other districts such as Masaka and Wakiso.” “So the lockdown was really timely,” he said.

He however said that when they traveled to Mubende and Kassanda and interacted with the health workers there, one of the main issues they raised was non-payment of risk allowance. , which they felt demoralized them.

Lumbasi also appreciated the government’s efforts to fight Ebola and expressed optimism about the country’s ability to control the disease given its long experience in successfully controlling many previous outbreaks that afflicted it as well as other African countries.

“The virus reaching Kampala has made things a bit complicated, but I think Uganda has the capacity to control it.” “My own concern is the lack of cooperation from community leaders in Kassanda,” she said.

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