Mak-RIF COVID-19 project – CHUSS reseachers train 60 local leaders in conflict resolution as a measure to foster peaceful communities in Kampala
Researchers from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS), Makerere University have trained 60 local leaders in slums around Kampala in conflict resolution. The researchers including Dr Samson Barigye (Principal Investigator), Dr Charlotte Karungi Mafumbo (Co-PI) and Dr Veneranda Mbabazi have also trained 30 local leaders as trainers of trainers in conflict resolution, advocacy and dialogue, and facilitated the establishment of a structure and mechanism for continous resolution of conflicts in slum areas.
This follows a study conducted by the team to understand and document the immediate consequences of COVID-19 on four (4) urban areas in Kampala namely; Katanga, Kikoni, Kivulu and Kisenyi. Under their project titled “Building Peaceful Urban Communities in Kampala City amidst COVID-19 and Beyond”, the team sought to understand how the traumatized and stressed population, especially the widows, orphans, child-headed households, women-headed households, the elderly, people with disabilities, and the terminally ill were coping with food insecurity, loss of income, Gender Based Violence (GBV) and social unrest. During the study, the team analysed the nature of conflicts and social instability attributed to COVID-19, with the aim of establishing a structure and mechanism for continous resolution of conflicts, dialogue and advocacy in slum areas. The ressearch team interviewed 24 Key Informants and also reached 148 respondents through Focus Group Discussions. Key informants included political leaders, religious leaders, traditional leaders, women leaders, youth leaders, civil society leaders, traders’ representatives and opinion leaders from the research areas (Katanga, Kikoni, Kivulu and Kisenyi).
The research was supported by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere Reseach and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF).
Disseminating their findings at Makerere University on 21st October 2020, the research team noted that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures put in place by the Government to curb its spread had adverse effects on residents of Kampala urban slums. The immediate consequences of the lockdown included loss of income, high crime rates, child labour, food insecurity, and lack of access to medical services. According to the researchers, patients with terminal illnesses such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS and cancer were nearly abandoned as families could not sustain their medical and social care, yet government was overly focusing on COVID-19. “The logistics of taking such patients to health facilities during the lockdown were so complicated that many of them died due to neglect,” noted Dr Veneranda while presenting the research findings.
The researchers explained that the lockdown that confined people in one place resulted into disharmony and instablity in many homes leading to increased cases of sexual and gender-based violonce, divorce or separation, early marriages, prostitution, and unwanted/unplanned pregnancies among women and under-age girls. The other consquences included an increased number of women-headed households, as a result of men abandoning their families for failure to meet their obligations. According to the respondents (49% men and 51% women), many men got psychologically tortured for being ridiculed and denied conjugal rights for failing to meet their obligations as heads of households. “The home settings in slums where most families stay in single rooms, and the fact that all children were home following the closure of education institutions at the onset of COVID-19 made it hard for couples to enjoy their conjugal rights, said Dr Mafumbo.
The study further established that the elderly, the street children, women, girls and child-headed families, as well as the orphans and People with Disabilities (PWDs) in the slum areas became more vulnerable due to COVID-19. “Even prior to COVID-19, these groups were dependant, however, their vulnerability was worsened by the loss of income and jobs by their benefactors. At the moment, majority of the vulnerable people in the slum areas are dependent on food hand outs and assistance from well-wishers, relatives, religious leaders, as well as NGOs like Makerere Kivulu Vulnerable Union (MAKIVU) in Kivulu,” the researchers noted.
The researchers also established that during the lockdown, the high population in slum areas conflicted over the limited resources and social services such as water points, communal sanitation facilities such as public/community toilets and waste management. This was worsened by the reduced services such as garbage collection and management of the drainage system. They also noted that the vulnerable situation occasion by the outbreak of COVID-19 had increased the number of street children in these areas.
In a bid to improve livelihoods in the slum areas of Kampala, the researchers appealed to the Government to use a decentralised channel for distribution of relief items – a decentralized system of service delivery would enable essential services to reach all the eligible persons on time. The researchers also called on the Government to establish a special recovery, rehabilitation and skilling scheme for young people to cope with the effects of COVID-19.
The research team thanked the Government of Uganda for the support accorded to them through the Makerere Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF).
Addressing participants, the Acting Deputy Principal of CHUSS, Dr Julius Kikooma commended the researchers for carrying out a study in line with the 2020-2030 Strategic Plan, that seeks to enhance Makerere’s relevance to the community and consolidate the University’s position as an engine of development. “As academics, we should focus more on research that addresses challenges within our communities if we are create meaningful impact,” he noted. Like the research team, Dr Kikooma expressed gratitude to the Government of Uganda for the support towards research and other academic activities at Makerere University.
The RIF Engagement Officer, Ms Carol Kamugira appreciated the research team for carrying out research that directly addresses community challenges. She appreciated the Government of Uganda for the support extended towards research at Makerere University. Through the Makerere Research and Innovations Fund (RIF), the University has so far received UGX45 billion to support high impact Research and Innovations that inform National Development Priorities.
The blended dissemination event was moderated by Mr. Isaac Tibasiima from the Department of Literature, Makerere University. It was attended by, among others, Dr Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala, Director, International Rotary Peace Centre at Makerere University and renowned Pastor Martin Ssempa.
Please click on the link below for the recording of the event.
https://zoom.us/rec/share/ftdWq_VZIdAzc_RhgvjlIZjBgWpzBS3PylxvqL1GZBsQan... Passcode: XVibw=10