Principal Investigators: Dr Gloria Seruwagi, PI (Makerere University) and Prof. Stephen Lawoko, Co-PI (Gulu University)
The Refugee Lived Experiences, Compliance and Thinking (REFLECT) study assessed community knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) and implementation of Uganda’s national response to COVID-19 among refugee communities.
This study wanted to understand the extent to which refugee communities were aware of COVID-19 and compliant with related measures and guidelines. The research sought to give visibility and voice to refugees through their lived experiences, while also analysing the processes and outcomes of COVID-19 policy and guidelines in Uganda. The study focused on critical issues, actions, intentions and experiences at different levels – individual, community and national.
The study documented lived experiences and assessed awareness and behavioural shifts in Uganda’s diverse refugee settings, with more than five different nationalities participating. It looked to establish whether contextual specificities of urban and rural-based refugees have a bearing on awareness, feasibility, enforcement and compliance to policy and guidelines from Uganda’s national response to COVID-19. Embedded in this research was a policy analysis strand – assessing policy formulation, feasibility, implementation and outcome.
A plethora of etic perspectives on the refugee experience largely drives programming, policy and research. A glaring gap is the insider (emic) perspective. This research positions refugees at the centre, highlighting issues most meaningful and positively transformative for them. We need to listen, learn and then act - acknowledging their agency and “nothing about us without us” message.
The study recommends that the government of Uganda should review not only its approach but also related outcomes in addressing COVID-19 in humanitarian settings, considering what is feasible for refugees. For example, focusing more on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) preventive measures, instead of social distancing may be better for refugees in crowded settlements or homes. The team also suggests that the Government and partners address the barriers of non-compliance and consider implementing a robust socioeconomic response interlinked with other key sectors and actors.
Active community involvement and engagement will foster an acceptable, effective, inclusive and sustainable approach.
Humanitarian actors focused on health (including WASH), protection, livelihoods and other sectors could use the findings of this research to improve interventions, or design more responsive interventions that are guided by local partnerships.
The team has created a series of resources to share their experience of conducting this research. The resources include blogs that reflect on the perspectives of all the partners in the study; policy briefs, such as guidance on how communities can be empowered to steer sustained COVID-19 compliance measures; and community engagement activities. Visit the REFLECT web page here.
The team created a website to share the work of the REFLECT project. Here you can find blogs from the field, lessons learned, policy briefs and all the other resources developed as a result of the project to understand COVID-19 in Uganda's refugee camps.View
Gloria Seruwagi, co-principal investigator for the REFLECT study, shares her thoughts on the resilience of Uganda's health system amid COVID-19.View
An interview with Brian Luswata from the Ugandan Ministry of Health on his experience working with the REFLECT study.View
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