Kukaa Salama (Staying Safe): A Pre-Post Trial of a WhatsApp Social Group for Increasing COVID‑19 Prevention Practices with Urban Refugee and Displaced Youth in Kampala, Uganda
THE ISSUE: Poverty, overcrowded living conditions, and poor sanitation increase COVID‑19 risks in humanitarian settings while limiting the ability to practice prevention strategies (e.g. physical distancing, hand washing). There is an urgent need for tailored COVID‑19 responses with refugee/displaced persons. We address knowledge gaps regarding COVID‑19 prevention in humanitarian contexts. We focus on urban refugee/displaced youth in Uganda, where 1.4 million refugees are hosted-Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest refugee hosting nation and the 3rd largest globally. Our study is located in Kampala, Uganda that hosts 90,000 urban refugee/displaced persons living in informal settlements. Adolescents and youth comprise half of the world’s 70.8 million refugee/displaced persons yet are understudied in pandemics. OUR IDEA: We will develop and evaluate the effectiveness of a WhatsApp social group intervention in increasing COVID‑19 prevention practices (hand and respiratory hygiene, physical distancing) among our existing CIHR Project Grant cohort of urban refugee/displaced youth aged 16-24 living in informal settlements in Kampala. Our project involves: 1) qualitative phone interviews with refugee/displaced youth (n=24) and key informants (n=6) to understand barriers and facilitators to COVID‑19 prevention, following the RANAS (risk, attitude, norms, ability, self-regulation) approach to behaviour change; 2) integration of the qualitative findings to develop Kukaa Salama (Staying Safe), a 16-week COVID‑19 prevention intervention (weekly SMS and moderated WhatsApp discussions); 3) conducting a single arm, pre-test/post-test trial to test the effectiveness of Kukaa Salama in improving COVID‑19 prevention with refugee/displaced youth aged 16-24 (n=340); 4) knowledge mobilization, including a think tank to produce a refugee policy analysis. Findings will advance the COVID‑19 global response with new knowledge of mHealth approaches for COVID‑19 prevention in humanitarian contexts.