Civil Society Organizations Call on Government and Partners to meaningfully engage CSOs and the Communities in Combating COVID-19

By Elias Hakizimana.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started to be spread throughout the globe and in African countries, several Governments including Rwanda have taken preventive measures including sensitising the public to reguraly wash hands, to avoid large gatherings and report any symptoms by calling the toll-free number 114.

To further the efforts, Rwanda NGOs Forum on HIV/AIDS and Health Promotion (RNGOF) has started its interventions by joining the hand to the Government of Rwanda towards the prevention of COVID-19 pandemic.

In an Exlusive Interview with Mrs. KABANYANA Nooliet, Executive Secretary of Rwanda NGOs Forum on HIV/AIDS and Health Promotion, the Inspirer has learnt that there are some challenges hampeing the forum to exercise their work of sensitization as well as doing current activities towards combating HIV/AIDS.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started to be spread throughout the globe and in African countries, several Governments including Rwanda have taken preventive measures, what are your interventions as the forum of NGOs in joining the hand to the GoR towards the prevention of this outbreak?

“We, Rwanda NGOs Forum on HIV/AIDS and Health Promotion are sensitizing the member organizations to abide by the preventive measures put in place by the Authorities including the Rwanda Ministry of Health, Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Local Government.Sensitizing the public using social media by disseminating flyers with prevention messages as per the Ministry of Health guidelines on COVID-19 is another significant step we have made.”

Mrs. KABANYANA Nooliet, Executive Secretary of Rwanda NGOs Forum on HIV/AIDS and Health Promotion. (File photo)

Kabanyana also noted that they call on the Rwanda NGOs Forum members to disseminate widely the prevention messages aligned to the Ministry of Health guidelines to their beneficiaries by using social media so that the Communities can be fully engaged in the fight against COVID-19.

However, she said that civil society organizations (CSOs) are experiencing some challenges to fully intervene in this battle as the Corona virus disease has come unexpectedly.

“The CSOs are not able to directly interact with their beneficiaries in the Communities that are not fully equipped with prevention messages on COVID-19.

How do you link your activities of combating HIV/AIDS with COVID-19?

“As now people are locked down, CSOs are very much concerned with the increase of New HIV Infection among Female Sex Workers (FSWs), MSM as well as adolescentgirls and young women and youth who may not access condoms from condom kiosks. The immediate challenge is to who will fill the kiosks and client access. And how the Key and Priority population will move for condoms from condom kiosk? How will the condom kiosks be monitored and by who? How will MSM be reached with Lubricants?”

“CSOs are very much concerned of the increase of New HIV Infections and Teen pregnancies among Adolescent Girls and Young Women. Nobody is on the ground to monitor and provide behavior change support. No available resources for CSOs to provide information campaigns to the communities.”

What do you think must be done for you to fully intervene in helping the community to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic?

“There is need for the Government to meaningfully engage CSOs in the plans related to COVID-19 so that CSOs make part of the planning and implementation process on COVID-19 prevention, test and treat programs. CSOs role is critical during this period where communities need to be aware of what should be done to end the spread of Corona Virus. To this end, CSOs need to be fully equipped to support in information Campaigns to prevent against COVID-19 epidemic.”

“There is also need for the Ministry of Health to put in place new strategies and mechanisms of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic alongside other viruses including New HIV Infections among Key and Priority Population; and fight against early unwanted pregnancies during this time where the communities are locked down due to COVID-19 pandemic. Eg: Mechanisms of how Condoms and Lubricant will continue to be available, accessible and distributed;

Finally, CSOs call on Government and other partners to support CSOs with funds to be able to fully play the role of information campaigns related to COVID-19 to the communities; GBV, Human Rights and any other form of discrimination that key and priority population may face during this catastrophic period.”

According to Mrs. MUKANTABANA Crescence, the Executive Director of Poor Women Development Network (PWDN) a member Organization of Rwanda NGOs Forum, the role of women and men at all levels is very key in the fight against COVID-19 in rural and urban areas.

Mrs. MUKANTABANA Crescence, the Executive Director of Poor Women Development Network (PWDN)

“They all need to have enough information about COVID-19 Prevention so that they can be able to share same information related to prevention with their families. During this difficult time where the Country is facing the serious challenge of COVID-19, all stakeholders including Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) need to also draw much attention in fighting against any form of Gender Based Violence that may tend to increase in families due to this pandemic of COVID-19.” Mukantabana says.

The Governement and partners need to avail resources for CSOs working in the health and Human Rights Sector to be able to deliver prevention messages.

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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,(www.rwandainspirer.com) is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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