ACCC has concluded an Extractives Global Programmatic Support (EGPS)/World Bank project on advocating for an effective mechanism in mitigating the health and social impacts of Covid-19 among Artisanal Small Gold Miners (ASM) Communities in Mubende and Busia in the first phase and Buhweju and Moroto in the second phase. Thanks to EGPS and the world bank for the financial support. ACCC underscored the fact that increases in advocacy for an effective mechanism in mitigating the health impacts of Covid-19 pandemic on Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) communities in the said project district would augment ACCC’s efforts in promoting a healthier and safe environment for the miners and their dependents amidst COVID-19.This project, therefore, sought to raise and mount serious awareness campaigns emphasizing the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic amongst ASM. The project further focused on changing their mindset to appreciate the fact that COVID-19 pandemic is real and dangerous and that there is a need to continue focusing on such measures as preventative, containment and change of life styles, in order, to cope with the situation.
The project mainly targeted the ASM from Mubende, Busia, Moroto and Buhweju Districts as direct beneficiaries. Other stakeholders included the District Local Governments-DLGs, health practitioners; area members of parliament, district task force on COVID-19, the media and the public. ACCC conducted Focus Discussions and strategic meetings; held Media outreaches and engagements inform of talk shows on radios and TVs; developed and disseminated relevant EIC materials (such as brochures).
ACCC learnt that there was a significant knowledge gap with respect to Covid-19 among ASM. In the project districts, ASM had previously underestimated and ignored the reality of Covid-19 and its threat to their lives, families and adjacent communities. Consequently, there was limited adherence to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) provided by the government including social distancing, use of sanitizers and masks. However, timely and well packaged information were essential in changing the mindsets and perspectives of ASM to embrace new ideas and skills in prevention of Covid-19. ACCC further established that DLGs in the project areas had ignored and not prioritized ASM in their Covid-19 interventions work schedules. DLGs welcomed and appreciated ACCC’s intervention in raising awareness amongst ASM and committed to partnering with ACCC to reach out to other ASM not covered by the project.
The media engagements reached out to a wider audience than what FGDs and Strategic meetings could achieve. The media picked more interest to focus on ASM plight hitherto not thought about. The media is willing to use ACCC’s brochure and talk shows to educate a wider public on the impact of Covid-19. New and different media stations have contacted ACCC for more interviews and some have provided free space to deepen our call to mitigate the risks of covid-19 among the public including ASM.
It was critical covering the miners in ASMs come from different districts across the country and congregate in particular sites. Implying that, someone with a virus from a particular ASM site has high chances of spreading it to other parts of the country. ACCC recommends that cross visits by ASM to share experience on COVID-19 prevention measures be encouraged and facilitated. Raising awareness on the fake Covid-19 products such as sanitizers and their dangers is urgent. Training ASM in making their own affordable sanitizers from the locally available resources is crucial. Multi- stakeholder engagement with Ministry of Health, Uganda National Bureau of Standards, National Drug Authority, and Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, parliament, the security among others is critical in eradicating counterfeit sanitizers on the market. Providing a revolving fund is critical in aiding the ASM who have lost jobs and other opportunities due to Covid-19 lockdown.