Tom Alinde, the customer service manager Link Bus Services, says that little or no public sensitization has taken place in the transport sector about the disease. He says for many, Ebola is no longer a threat in Uganda since there are no reported cases.
Both Kisenyi and
Namayiba bus terminals are popular spots for people traveling to and outside
the city. The two bus terminals operate both day and night. On a daily basis, more
than 100 buses enter or leave Kampala to different parts of the country including
districts that neighbor the Democratic Republic of Congo- DRC, which is
struggling to contain the deadly Ebola disease.
More than 3100 people
have been affected since the disease broke out DRC. Although four people has so
far succumbed the disease in Kasese, bus operators that ply the Rwenzuru route are relaxed, saying there is
no more Ebola threat. The bus operators neither screen nor provide information
to travelers about the highly contagious disease. At Link Bus terminal, the
Ebola sensitisation materials are kept in the manager’s office under a pile of
books collecting dust.
Tom Alinde, the
customer service manager Link Bus Services, says that little or no public
sensitization has taken place in the transport sector about the disease. He
says for many, Ebola is no longer a threat in Uganda since there are no
reported cases. “We have met with KCCA
officials but that was at the beginning of the outbreak. Now, we have not heard
from them. With their silence and attitude, there’s a general feeling that
Ebola is out of Uganda. That it is no longer a threat to us,” he said.
According to the WHO general public guidelines on Ebola,
members of the public are advised to keep a distance of at least 1 meter from
suspected Ebola cases. Ebola is believed to enter the body through the eyes,
mouth, nose, or breaks of the skin. People are advised against getting into contact with a
suspected patient because the disease can be spread by coming into contact with
body fluids of an infected person. To prevent Ebola, one is advised to wash
hands with soap and water or alcohol based hand sanitizers.
At the bus terminals,
no hand washing amenities are provided. There is no sign of water or soap or
even hand sanitizers. Once a journey is completed, buses are taken to washing
bays and are washed normally. No extra measures are
taken to decontaminate them in case someone an undetected passenger had the
disease. Alinde cites lack of resources as the reason why they have not
installed some protective measures at the bus terminal.
“For the thermometers,
we have never thought about it. We though they have to be used by only health
workers. For others, the cost is too high,” he said. On the open market, an
infrared thermometer, one of the equipment used to detect the Ebola Viral
disease costs around Shillings 370,000 (USD 100). One liter of alcohol based
hand sanitizer costs between Shillings 35,000-40,000.
According to the Health Ministry, Uganda has had over 700
Ebola alert cases. Only four of the alerts tested positive. To try and keep the
situation at it is an Ebola response plan was launched by the Health Ministry
in July 2019 worth Shillings 64 billion.
In Kampala, emphasis has been put on sensitizing people in
the transport sector. This includes running spot messages on Television.
According to Kampala Capital City Authority, their Ebola awareness plan is
hinged on social mobilization, clinical care and surveillance. Dr. Daniel Okello, the Director of Health Services at KCCA,
says they have trained people within the transport sector on how to deal with
suspected Ebola cases.
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Following the confirmation of three Ebola cases in June,2019,
the regulatory body said they were planning on setting up a facility at in bus parks
to assess suspected Ebola cases. The Authority has since given up on that idea.
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However, some bus operators cannot identify a person with
Ebola. Robert Agaba, a bus conductor with Baby Coach, says they don’t know how
to easily identify an Ebola suspect. He says if someone is sick, they would
have to report to them. “When someone is sick, they have to come and tell us. That is
how it usually works. Us, we cannot tell if someone is sick just by looking at
them,” Agaba said.
Saturday Muhwezi, the Operations and Security manage, at
Namayiba bus terminal, says that they have received little or no education about
Ebola. “The authorities came and talked to us in June. They have not
been back. That one engagement was not enough. The only thing we know about the
disease is that people with it vomit blood,” Muhwezi told URN.
Incase an Ebola case was confirmed in Kampala, the nearest
health center fitted to receive them would be Naguru National Referral
Hospital. The hospital is located 5 kilometers away from the bus terminal. Dr. Makanga Kizito, the head of the Naguru Isolation and
Ebola Treatment Unit, says it is very important for everyone to be on highlight
for the disease especially those in the transport sector. He says Ebola has
mutated and is not easily identifiable as it was ten years ago.
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While doctors are on standby waiting for any Ebola emergency
and preaching the need of being alert at all times passengers that use public
transport believe that they are safe. Nicholas Muwanga, a passenger who had traveled from Arua to
Kampala via Friends Coach told URN that there is no need to take precautions
like carrying hand sanitizer.
“Uganda has not had a case of Ebola. The ones
that were reported were from DRC. I think we are safe,” he argued.