Twaweza Report: Kampala residents turn to herbal remedies to combat Covid-19

The Ministry of Health in partnership with Twaweza is calling upon citizens to act on government guidelines around Covid-19 and not to rely on herbal and alternative remedies. The call comes amidst rising case numbers and fatalities in Uganda.

To understand citizen behaviours around Covid-19, Twaweza collected data from citizens in Kampala to understand their knowledge about and actions around the virus. The most recent data were collected from 807 residents of Kampala in December 2020 to January 2021.

At the beginning of the year, close to half of Kampala residents believed that: a person who shows no symptoms cannot spread Covid-19 (50%); that hot weather helps to prevent the spread of Covid-19 (46%); and that drinking ginger and lemon or other herbal drinks can cure Covid-19 (46%). A significant 1 out of 3 residents of Kampala thought that vitamins (36%) or alternative remedies such as steam inhalation (31%) cure Covid-19. After living with Covid-19 for almost a year, many Ugandans in Kampala were still significantly misinformed.

There is evidence that Kampala residents changed their behaviour around Covid-19 when comparing between December and June 2020. The most significant change comes in self-reported mask wearing: in December 2020, 9 out of 10 Kampala residents (88%) reported wearing a mask when outside the house compared to 7 out of 10 (72%) in June 2020. Other self-protection measures which Kampala residents reported doing more of in December compared to June are: avoiding public places or gatherings (26% report doing this in December compared to 13% in June); and using alternative remedies (up to 17% from 6%). Residents of Kampala also reported staying home except for essential trips much less (45% in June 2020 compared to 28% in December).

Similarly, when asked what they would do if they or a household member contracted Covid-19, residents of Kampala were more likely to say they would: visit a health facility (60% in June, 72% in December); self-quarantine at home (18% in June, 25% in December) and report to a regional health officer (from 0 to 17%). But they were much less likely to say they would call the Covid-19 hotline (58% named this as an option in June 2020 and 22% mentioned it in December). But Kampala residents also said they were more likely to self-treat with herbs (5% to 13%) or steam inhalation (2% to 6%) in December.

Violet Alinda, Twaweza Uganda Country Lead and Director of Voice and Participation, said â€œAs the second wave hits Uganda hard, we hope these data can help inform messaging around Covid-19 to encourage citizens to listen to government guidelines and be wary of misinformation and false cures.”

Emmanuel Ainebyona, Senior Public Relations Officer, Ministry of Health said â€œWe are calling on citizens to pay attention to government-endorsed, scientifically-verified & approved information. The main guidance around Covid-19 is simple and clear: Wear a mask, wash your hands, Avoid crowds, & social distance as much as possible. We are calling on all Ugandans to live by these preventive measures and to help spread the word.”