Tesy is a 21 year old young lady living in the outskirts of Kampala. The recent COVID-19 global pandemic having caused widespread panic; it has also got her worried about her husband’s severe alcoholism disorder and his continued abuse of Public health guidelines, the safety measures against the virus such as washing hands, avoiding crowded places and staying home. All this is ice-caked by his daily domestic violence acts of battering her under the influence of alcohol.
While the pandemic globally affects everyone, Adolescent Girls and Young Women in particular are facing unique challenges as health care systems are failing, inequalities are compounding, special needs are de-prioritized and they also face additional barriers to care, particularly sexual and reproductive health care.
Caused by the new Corona Virus, COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease, a pandemic that has brought about a great disruption of normal life of Ugandans and the world at large. In the effort of flattening the COVID19 curve, the government of Uganda has imposed increasingly restrictive measures aimed at curtailing the spread of the virus. The President ordered for the closure of schools, religious gatherings, public rallies and cultural meetings. It further banned public transport and nonfood markets while prior to that, it had closed the bars and instituted a mandatory 14 day quarantine for anyone returning to the country from high risk countries. When the number of people infected surpassed 30, the government announced additional measures including a country wide partial lock-down where the president further ordered restrictions on movements of people including private vehicles, motorcycles and introduced a 7pm to 6:30Am curfew coordinated by the Uganda security forces.
While all this has been put in place, the media has continually reported that some arms of security forces have been using excessive force to enforce the government laid COVID-19 curbing measures thus becoming a human rights issue. Some soldiers beat and shoot at persons found outdoors during curfew time. According to the comments from the social media channels, the majority of the young people in Uganda who are the hardest hit citizens are casual laborers who have been greatly affected by the partial shutdown. How they and their families are surviving is a topic for another day.
Confidentiality and personal privacy are at stake as I witnessed stigma and discrimination against the purported victims as Uganda first announced its positive cases, the purported identity of the positive case was spreading like a bush fire. One wonders how an independent country with a proper medical system could let such human atrocities happen! What happened to the professional medical ethics concerning confidentiality and personal privacy of a patient?
We’ve witnessed young people living with HIV having to walk long distances to the healthy facilities while on an empty stomach for ART refills, talk about TB patients who largely depend on the informal sector, they’ve been forced to stay home due to their increased vulnerability to COVID-19. The tuberculosis treatment needs food, as DTG makes a person feel hungry than a normal healthy one. Life is indeed tough for us. Says Tesy!
To an expectant mother ready for delivery, it feels like a death sentence due to the COVID-19 crisis at hand. Some deliver along the roadsides as they have to walk all the way to the health facilities; to access PMTCT due to the ban on public transport. Many parents have developed mixed feelings when a baby is born because they are worried about the entire ordeal of child birth.
There’s also lack of food and Sexual reproductive health services such as contraceptives which are limited and quite expensive to purchase yet young girls and women are at a verge of sexual exploitation
Adolescents are faced with insecurity and psycho-social torture due to prolonged closure of non-informal education opportunities, movement restrictions, social engagement limitations with their peers, and peer educators. This has fueled emotional unrest and anxieties which has made young people see governmental institutional failure in terms of meeting their needs. The casual attitude of young people towards the corona virus is at great odds with the reality that the doctors and the government see.
The basic human rights of people should be at the center of the government’s response to this pandemic, especially the most vulnerable such as the homeless and youth, says Oryem Nyeko, a Ugandan researcher at Human rights Watch.
In the context of COVID-19, with the disruption of schools, routine health services and community level centers, new ways of providing information and support to adolescents and young people for sexual and reproductive health and rights need to be established – UNFPA reports because while this pandemic affects us all, young people exposed to COVID-19 are as vulnerable as the elderly.
Compiled By Mariam Nassaka