Insights from Uganda and Ethiopia: Lessons learned by non-profit staff while caring for older adults amidst the COVID-19 pandemic
Globally, older adults were more likely to be severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, non-profit organizations played essential roles in supporting those affected. Indeed, Reach One Touch One Ministries (ROTOM), a non-profit organization that holistically supports older adults and their dependents in Uganda and Ethiopia, was central in providing COVID-19 care and support. However, with limited resources, non-profit organizations, such as ROTOM, had to adopt innovative ways to manage the costs and demand for services, which likely impacted service delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study aims at documenting the strategies employed by ROTOM, the impact on older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the recovery efforts implemented to build back.
Findings from in-depth interviews (n=28) with staff and volunteers from ROTOM revealed several negative impacts of the pandemic and public health mandates on older adults. For example, due to the reverse migration of people in urban centres back to their local communities caused by the pandemic, older adults are now responsible for an increased number of dependent household members, thereby increasing older adults' demands on ROTOM. Importantly, due to the trust beneficiaries had in ROTOM, most seniors supported by ROTOM consented to receive COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as the vaccines became available. This underscored the necessity of involving non-profits and trusted community leaders in encouraging vaccine distribution and tackling misinformation during a pandemic. The paper discusses the policy implications of the findings in relation to a coordinated roadmap for COVID-19 recovery.