By Spy Uganda
Legislators on Parliament’s Finance Committee last week raised eyebrows and several queries after the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), requested the Ministry of Finance for Shs14Bn, to help in the implementation of Presidential Directives in the fight against Coronavirus (COVID-19).
According to the proposed COVID-19 budget which totals to Shs304Bn, the Ministry of Health will take Shs82.6Bn, followed by Security at Shs81.5Bn, Disaster management support to the vulnerable people takes Shs59.4Bn, while local government will take Shs36.1Bn, KCCA exclusive support to the vulnerable was allocated Shs30Bn, while the ICT sector had proposed Shs14Bn though it was cut yesterday to shs6Bn.
However, several Members of Parliament wondered why the Ministry of ICT would require billions of shillings just to make Ugandans aware of the Coronavirus pandemic and how they can avoid its spread.
The MPs thus tasked the Ministry heads, to wit, Hon. Judith Nabakooba and Hon. Peter Ogwang, to explain how and why they want to spend a whopping Shs14Bn on just implementing the Presidential Directives on COVID-19.
In his humble reply to the concerned Members of Parliament, Minister Ogwang ably explained an effective Communication Strategy that the Ministry of ICT intends to roll out in a bid to create national awareness about COVID-19 and its prevention.
In the said COVID-19 Awareness Strategy, the Ministry of ICT intends to partner with several media platforms in Uganda like radios, TV stations, Social Media Platforms, Print media and local communication mediums like community Mega-phones (Ebizindaalo) to disseminate all information about the fight against COVID-19.
Here below is Ogwang’s presentation before parliament that convinced legislators to pass his multibillion Anti COVID-19 budget;
“I would like to thank you forgiving me an opportunity, on behalf of my Ministry, throw more light about communication support for Uganda’s efforts to combat COVID-19.
Honorable Members, as you are aware, COVID-19 is here with us and remains a threat to the people were present. The Number of cases confirmed by Ministry of Health (MoH) in Uganda now stands at 52.
Honorable Members, as you may be aware, COVID-19 spreads rapidly, yet it has no direct cure or vaccine to-date.
And, as you may have noticed, its rate of spread is such that it can stretch and overwhelm facilities even in the most developed countries like the United States.
This means, Honorable Members, that in our case the most viable option is to halt the spread of COVID-19. This requires, among others, intensive sensitization to ensure that messages about COVID-19, as approved by Ministry of Health (MoH) trickle down to the masses.
In this regard, as the coordinator for information dissemination, my Ministry has developed a comprehensive communication strategy to support Uganda’s response efforts towards COVID-19.
Through the strategy, we seek to:
a.) Continue educating the public about the nature/
symptoms of COVID19.
b.) Sensitise the public about the recommended prevention practices.
c.) Improve information reach, particularly
at the community level.
d.) Inform the public about available COVID-19 support
e.) Create reporting channels for those in need of COVID-19 support.
f.) To have the public appreciate the restrictions by GoU.
g.) Obtain feedback from the public about the COVID-19
services being rendered.
Since the disease spreads a lot through interaction, our messages include social distancing, disinfecting, avoiding crowding, avoiding touching soft parts of the body-eyes, nose and the mouth, among others.
We have been consulting and reviewing our delivery channels for messages about COVID-19. Accordingly,we are going to use a mixture of tools to ensure optimal message reach.
Accordingly, we shall mainly use radio, TV and social Media platforms which people can access via electronic devices from their homes.
For TV and radio messages, we are going to record and disseminate COVID-19 messages based on voices of leaders, including Hon. Members of Parliament, Cultural Leaders, Religious Leaders, among others.
We shall similarly make use of on-line media publishing platforms and digital platforms like websites. For rural communities, we are going to engage Sub-County chiefs, who will use mega-phones to disseminate MoH approved messages in local languages, in their respective areas of jurisdiction, countrywide.
We shall also be coordinating live coverage on TV and radio, and conducting regular Government press conferences, to offer up-dates to provide the country with the latest information about COVID-19, as it becomes available.
We have similarly, deployed officers to operate toll-free lines, so as to provide information directly to our citizens, and take requests, particularly from those in urgent need of COVID-19 support services.
I would like to thank you Hon.Members for your feedback about our initial proposals. Your views have indeed, been considered, in completing our communication strategy for the COVID-19 response.
Honorable Members ,COVID-19 remains a real threat to our people. With your support, we can make a difference. I am, therefore, seeking your support to enable us scale-up the necessary sensitization efforts.
MINISTER OF STATE FOR ICT & NATIONAL GUIDANCE”