Table 1

Framework for civil society involvement in response to infectious disease outbreaks

Major areas of civil society contributions during infectious outbreaksExamples of civil society activities during past outbreaksExamples of Ugandan civil society activities during the COVID-19 pandemic
1. Community mobilisation and empowermentCSO volunteers in Nigeria used community dialogues and house-to-house mobilisation to build community trust in a polio programme, leading to 73% of local caregivers identifying the volunteer mobilisers as their primary source of polio information.12
During the 2015 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, the SEND Foundation of West Africa assembled community health workers, faith-based groups, women’s groups and others to provide medical supplies, particularly to hard-to-reach areas.13
HEPS-Uganda convened 24 town hall discussions across Uganda in 2022 to hear community concerns, provide education and fight disinformation about COVID-19 vaccine safety.
VAX-Uganda CSOs shared ideas with Ugandan government ministries on how to most effectively engage parents and schools during a COVID-19 vaccination campaign for schoolchildren.
2. Service deliveryThe AIDS Support Organization in Uganda cares for 100 000 people living with HIV and offers testing and counselling services.3
The Botswana Retired Nurses Society provided comprehensive, palliative and home-based treatment for individuals living with HIV, reaching underserved communities in need.3
BRAC Bangladesh coordinated community health workers who offered directly observed therapy for tuberculosis and connected patients with health providers.14
The Uganda Red Cross Society provided volunteers for understaffed vaccination sites in five districts in western Uganda.
3. AdvocacyCSO campaigns and policy advocacy accelerated the development and global accessibility of antiretroviral drugs for HIV.2
An El Salvadoran CSO brought a case of reproductive rights violation to the state constitutional court, defending a 17-year-old living with HIV who experienced forced sterilisation after giving birth.15
VAX-Uganda CSOs influenced the inclusion of COVID-19 diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics in the 2022 Uganda Clinical Guidelines and Essential Medicines and Health Supplies List of Uganda.
Following a request from VAX-Uganda CSOs, the Ministry of Health’s Director of Public Health published clear public guidance on heterologous COVID-19 vaccination schedules and instructed radio stations to stop playing outdated messages about the practice.
  • CSO, civil society organisation; HEPS-Uganda, Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development; VAX-Uganda, The Vaccine Advocacy Accelerator—Uganda.