At a press conference held today Tuesday 16th June 2020, a research team led by Makerere University presented a ‘Mathematical Model of COVID-19 dynamics in Uganda: Using a locally parameterized system to enhance intervention policies’. The aim of the research from which the model is developed was to study the dynamics of COVID-19 in Uganda and use the results to provide comprehensive forecast of the disease’ trends. The model endeavours to provide appropriate evidence-based policy support to government on the timing and nature of intervention measures.
The research team that worked on the study is led by Prof. Joseph Y.T. Mugisha, a Professor of Biomathematics (Department of Mathematics, College of Natural Sciences). Professor Mugisha is also the Principal of the College of Natural Sciences, Makerere University. Other members of the team are: Dr. Juliet Nakakawa Nsumba (Makerere University), Dr. Joseph Ssebuliba (Makerere University) Dr. Amos Ssematimba (Gulu University), and Dr. Cliff Richard Kikawa (Kabale University).
The Vice Chancellor – Makerere University, Professor Barnabas Nawangwe and the Deputy Vice Chancellor –Academic Affairs, Associate Professor Umar Kakumba attended the press conference.
In his remarks, Professor Nawangwe welcomed the press to Makerere University thanking them for informing the public about the research and innovations developed by staff and students of Makerere University. He said ‘as we all are aware, COVID-I9 is a big global challenge and Makerere as a lead research institution is working to provide solutions to the pandemic at the national, regional and global levels with our partners’. He reiterated his appreciation of the Government of Uganda for providing funds through the Makerere Research and Innovation Fund that enabled the team to undertake the study presented.
The findings of this study show that the immediately implemented measures by the Government of Uganda averted thousands of cases that would have overstretched the health system within a couple of months. Without significantly altering the current situation, measures on partial lockdowns and use of masks are insufficient to stop COVID-19 and as such the disease will remain endemic in the population. In all the assessed scenarios the disease would be wiped out in the case where there are no infected arrivals beyond the first 58 days and in this case the disease would be wiped out within 200 days.
With the worrying situation of increased reported cases in our neighbouring countries, the impact of Uganda’s interventions would be greatly affected as results show that doubling the imported cases would almost triple both the maximum number of hospitalized individuals and the number of undetected cases.
Screening of truck drivers faces a challenge of reagent limitation, imperfect test accuracy, arrival of asymptomatic and latently infected individuals that may pass as false negatives during screening as well as the porosity of some of the national borders. Thus, adoption of alternative less-risky means of essential cargo delivery (e.g., by rail and ship services) combined with quarantining of all entrants for a duration not shorter than the incubation period should be enforced.
Amidst challenges of social-economic impact of COVID-19, agitation of lifting lockdown may downplay the impact of intervention measures and the study findings highlight the importance of optimal timing and magnitude of lockdown easing. Effectively phased-out ease of lockdown needs to be well studied and executed to avoid the possibility of a second wave.
1. It is not advisable to eased lockdown by releasing 50% of susceptible population for the Ugandan situation with current 3200 hospital beds and not all are of ICU-like capacity, because within 100 days the COVID-19 related hospitalization demand would have already overwhelmed the current resources.
2. Since the consequences of hospital acquired infections go beyond merely increasing the number of cases, their mitigation should be given high priority.
3. Lifted to a 75% level, the yet-to-be detected cases in the community have potential to start a second and more disastrous epidemic wave. However, with enhanced surveillance and contact tracing, gradual easing by releasing smaller percentages of susceptible individuals from lockdown can still be safely executed sooner than the optimum 210 days for up to 75% susceptible level.
4. The issue of handling truck drivers mingling at service and testing centres at border crossings should be reinforced – preferably, government should set up treatment and isolation facilities as close as possible to the testing border points not to overwhelmed the existing regional facilities, optimize scarce handling resources and also to minimize stigma and community discontent. This would in addition reduce the time frontline workers are exposed to the risk of infection amidst lack of well-equipped ambulances
5. Since latently infected individuals can only be detected after latent period, effort should be put on obtaining information on where the drivers have been few days before arrival to understand the risk of admitting persons from high risk regions of neighbouring countries. The risk of imported cases is not only posed by those who test positive but also due to false negatives and latently infected individuals.
Ms Zaam Ssali
College of Natural Sciences
Lessons for Uganda: Decentralized Interventions in COVID-19 Relief Food Distribution
Featured Image: LDU personnel offload bags of relief food from a truck onto pick-up vehicles for further distribution during the COVID-19 lockdown in Kampala, Uganda. Photo Credit: Abubaker Lubowa/Daily Monitor
Public Health specialists have urged government to utilize its well-established decentralized systems to support intervention causes such as food relief distribution.
The researchers say to better tackle the food relief response exercise in future, government needs to deploy a multi-sectoral engagement, better planning, and a decentralized food distribution. Their recommendation is based on their analysis of the recent food distribution exercise in the urban groups in the central region (Kampala and neighboring Wakiso district) where scandals were reported and six senior OPM officials arrested over inflating COVID-19 food Prices.
On the March 25, 2020 the National COVID-19 Response Team issued relief food distribution campaign following the country lockdown presidential directive as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
Information Seeking Behavior of Secondary School Students during Lockdown
RIF COVID-19 Project: Information Seeking Behavior of Secondary School Students during the Lockdown in Uganda
This study addresses the need to effectively meet the information needs of secondary school students during the lockdown in Uganda. When the President of the Republic of Uganda directed that all schools be closed schools on 20th March 2020, students at all levels had to undergo home-schooling. The Ministry of Education and Sports and some schools developed learning materials to facilitate home-schooling during the lockdown. However, access to school libraries is not possible and consequently, there is limited access to information resources necessary for effective study and learning. Students have to study independently at home but the question of how they access the necessary information resources to supplement their studies, remains unanswered. This study sought to establish the information seeking behavior of secondary school students during the lockdown, what sources they use, the challenges they face and thus has proposed a framework for providing library and information services to home-schooling secondary school students during the lockdown in Uganda.The study was guided by the Wilson’s and Krieklas’ model(1999) of Information Seeking. The model attempts to describe the process a user follows to satisfy an information need. It takes into account the user’s previous information-seeking experience. The user uses the tools that are most familiar and easy to use that find results. The model not only applies in the library context, but also to any information-seeking activity just like the one in which homeschooling secondary school students are at the moment.
A survey was carried out in five districts including Kyenjojo, Sironko, Mukono, Dokolo and Nakapiripirit representing the four major regions of Uganda. Given the timing of this project, choice of districts was based on the ease with which we could identify EASLIS students in the districts, who would serve as research assistants/guides and ease entry into the communities.These were non-border districts and had not registered any COVID-19 case. Based on a total secondary school student population of 1,370,583 (UBOS, 2018) we targeted a sample size of 384 (Krejcie& Morgan table (1970). However, the enthusiasm of the students resulted into collecting data from 446 respondents from 22 sub counties. Data was collected using self-administered questionnaires. Convenience sampling and snowball sampling was used to select individual survey participants. Majority of the respondents (87.9%) were O level students and only 12.1% were A level students.
3.1.How Secondary School Students seek/obtain information during the lock down
It was important to establish whether students were study while at home before ascertaining how they sought information to supplement their learning activities. The study established that 23.77% were using print study materials, 34.53% usedtelevision, while 51.57% used radio. However, 84.97% indicated that the learning materialswere not adequate. Reasons given included inadequate Content (42.95%); inadequate explanations (33.89%), subjects are not balanced (18.12%) and insufficient media Time/Timing for Lessons (5.03%). Thus, 90.4% indicated that they needed more information to supplement their study and learning during the lockdown.
Students Information Needs
Students’ information needs included information about COVID-19, sports, entrepreneurship, counselling, current affairs, religious information, fashion, designand academic information (school schedules, subject-specific information, examinations, etc.)
Information Seeking Practice
Students sought information by:
- Consulted information sources with a purpose in mind (74.82%)
- Using radio/television (74.21%)
- Collaborating with others (73%)
- Using others to seek information on their behalf (59.3%)
- Accidently encountering with information (54.5%).
- Using the internet (32.2%)
- Using social media (31.1%)
On whether the students had been guided or trained on how to seek or find information especially from various electronic resources, the study established that 27.6% had received such training while 72.4% had not.Even though the 27.6% had indicated they had received the training, 33.08% of them could not tell where they got the training. 34.59%had been trained by their schools, parents/relative (23.31%), through self-study (5.26%) and neighbors (3.76%).
3.2 Information Sources used by Secondary School Students during the Lockdown
The information sources used regularly by students included; personal notes (60.08%), radio (24%), personal textbooks (23%) and television (15.02%). The rest of the information sources includedInternet (8.74%) and newspapers (6.27%).
Students that were satisfied with personal notes were 51.56%, those satisfied with personal textbook were 27.57%, radio (19.73%), television (15.69%) and newspapers (8.74%).
Majority (91.03%) were not satisfied with nearby library as an alternative source of information. The low level of satisfaction with nearby library is attributed to absence of public libraries in the districts. Only, two students expressed awareness about the existence of a nearby public library (Lira Public Library) which was located over 50km from their homes.
3.3 Challenges/Hindrances faced by Secondary School Students in accessing information resources
Students’ access to information is constrained by a number of challenges including lack of access to a nearby library/resource center (92.15%), high cost of data bundles and OTT tax (83.85%), lack of access to the Internet (72.64%), lack of access to ICTs e.g. computers, smart phones, printing and photocopying services (70.85%), failure to find the relevant information easily (68.60%), inadequate information literacy skills (60.53%), insufficient knowledge of how to use a library/electronic resources (54.93%), lack of access to reading materials while at home (54.48%), lack of access to electricity (59.64%) and lack of appropriate reading space (24.21%).
High cost of radio batteries, unclear timetable for radio and television lessons, travelling long distances to sub counties to collect the study materials were hindrances to accessing information by the students.
Suggestions by the students to overcome the above challenges include:
- Parents reducing on domestic work to allow more time for study
- Allocation of more time for lessons on Television and Radios
- Dissemination of the radio/television study timetable
- Establishment of community libraries
- ICT infrastructure development
- Alternative energy sources
- Reduce the cost of Internet access and OTT
The closure of schools created an information gap for the learners. Information resources that used to be provided by the school libraries to support their studies, cannot be accessed, while at home.
While studying away from school, 90.4% needed more information and support. In addition, this study has revealed a low level of information literacy level among the students. While at school, school libraries / teacher librarians would guide access to information resources including how to utilize electronic information resources.
Even with the availability of different information sources like newspapers, radio, Internet, television, personal or borrowed textbooks, students mainly used personal notes (60.08%), followed by textbooks (24%) and radio (23%). The absence of nearby libraries resulted into 90.8% of the students not using libraries as an alternative information source.
Only a few (6.50%) had been supported by their school libraries through book borrowing, distribution of learning materials and provision of reading space.
Therefore, students’ access to information during the lockdown is constrained and this calls for measures to address this information gap and thus support effective study and learning during the lockdown and future pandemics.
Proposed Framework through which Library and Information Services can be provided to Secondary School Students during the Lockdown
The proposed framework for enabling access to library and information services to secondary school students during a pandemic is depicted in the figure below:
Fig 1: Proposed Framework for provision of Library and Information Services to Learners
The Government of Uganda should
- Establish an information literacy programme for learners’ independent study and learning.
- Ensure that regardless of closure of schools, Library and Information Services should be provided to the learners through digital and mobile library services
Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), through the Rural Communication Development Fund (RCDF), should provide funding for the realization of the proposed framework.
The Project Team
The Project team comprised researchers from the East African School of Library and Information Science under the College of Computing and Information Sciences, Makerere University.
- Dr. Joyce Bukirwa – Principal Investigator
- Ms. Lois Mutibwa – Researcher
- Ms. Faridah Muzaki – Researcher
- Mr. Richard Batte – Researcher
- Mr. Aloysius Ssenono Mwanje – Researcher
- Dr. David Luyombya – Researcher
We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (RIF) Special COVID-19 call.
Jack Kimmel International Grant Program
Jack Kimmel grants provide much needed funding to arboriculture and urban forestry researchers all over the world. This grant is administered by TREE Fund, with participation from the Canadian TREE Fund in the evaluation process.
These grants are available to researchers whose work is primarily outside of the United States. Projects are expected to be completed within one to two years. Grant award amounts are limited to a maximum of $10,000 and will vary depending upon the adjudged value of the project relative to the needs of the arboriculture community.
Note Well: In 2020, TREE Fund’s Jack Kimmel International Grant program will be focused specifically on plant health care, to include such sample areas of inquiry as (this list is not all-inclusive):
- Wound response to injection;
- Pest/pathogen biology and management;
- Resistance breeding
- Decay assessment
- Tree injection;
The first step to apply for this grant is to send an email containing a brief Letter of Inquiry (LOI) of no more than 100 words describing your project title and concept to email@example.com between August 1, 2020 and September 15, 2020. Your LOI must clearly identify the Principal Investigator and Institution who will be contracted for the work should your application be approved.