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With COVID-19 increasing mental health disorders among people across the world, Blind Football Uganda organized sports-based outings to create a positive outlet for the visually impaired to access.

Mental health is an important facet of human life. Despite its importance, it is often the least prioritized amongst health conditions. In low- and medium-income countries like Uganda, where disease, ignorance and poverty are common, a demand for a steadfast mental healthcare can seem a luxury.

Uganda spends 9.8% of its GDP on healthcare (USD 246) annually per person, but just 1% of this goes into mental healthcare. Uganda is ranked among the top six countries in Africa in rates of depressive disorder (4.6%; Miller, 2020) while 2.9% of Ugandans live with anxiety disorder (WHO, 2017). About 5.1% of women and 3.6% of men are affected by mental health disorders.

Sports provides a positive and safe spaces for releasing tension and stress for dealing with emotions such as fears and frustrations. It also allows one to make new friends or strengthen existing friendships, and these friends can become support groups that help one another during times of crisis.

Sport also improves your mood – playing blind football or athletics allows you to put your worries aside and focus on the game. This helps clear your mind and calm down. Sports has also been found to help many fight addiction, helping them take their mind off of addictions and instead occupying themselves with sports.

Sports can also help treat depression. Studies show that exercise improves symptoms of depression and reduces the risk of relapse. Participating in sports has been shown to improve leadership skills. This also gives an opportunity for people to share knowledge, experiences and challenges, hence helping those dealing with depression. Finally, sports can also help build self-esteem and confidence.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Uganda went into two total lockdowns – from 18 March till 2 June 2020, and 7 June to 31 July 2021. These lockdowns became an acute stressor, inducing trauma and destabilizing individuals. Communal, social life and recreational centres like beaches, bars, and stadia are still restricted to the population and many jobs have disappeared, especially in the informal sector and sectors considered nonessential.

With the imposed lockdowns, visually impaired and sighted people alike have become in active, since prolonged stays at home led to depression, stress and obesity, leading to a change in people’s mental state and well-being. In order to mitigate the consequences of this situation, Blind Football Uganda (BFU) began inclusive sports and physical activities that bringing together everyone in our society and get them active.

BFU exists to govern blind football and develop the game around Uganda, and is an independent organization formed in 2021. BFU organizes the men's and women's domestic competitions and national football teams.

Some of the activities we set up include evening fitness classes organized in Kampala, and activities such as jogging around the Makerere University area and evening walks. We also organized inclusive blind football matches, for both sighted and visually impaired persons, and all-blind football matches only for the visually impaired.

______________________________________________________________________________

Jagwe Muzafaru is the Founder and Chairman of Blind Football Uganda.

Tags

Country
Uganda
Region
Africa
Sport
Football (Soccer)
Sustainable Development Goals
10 – Reduced inequalities
Target Group
People with Disabilities

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