I have seen the news clip about the deaths in Ecuador, a South American developing country. Ecuador could be like Uganda, poor, no medical facilities and unprepared for the Coronavirus Pandemic. It is said that the lockdown was imposed there in February but no body listened. I have also seen a clip where they were distributing food.
I hoped, it was not a current event and hoped too, that it was not in Uganda. If it is it, this would mean we havenot picked any lesson in the process of containing the coronavirus. We are in unique and difficult times around the world. In Ecuador, the death cases a result of not adhering to the social distancing and other preventive measures. The clip where they were distributing foodshows a desperate group of people yearning for food (like many Ugandans are), but going against the tenants of social distancing.
This spells death for these people. Many people in Uganda are behaving like that they simply don’t understand. The consequence is what we see globally. Death. Painful death. In March, the President of the Republic of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni took to the lead and ordered closure of schools and locked up the country! He advised people to stay at home as a way of preventing the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease.
He prevented movement of vehicles except for security and essential service ones. He also imposed a curfew, all in the interests of the people of Uganda. What has happened? Some genuine people find a problem to comply for poverty reasons, but there are those fooling around! Worse still others profiting illegally from this unfortunate situation.It is not easy to comply with this lockdown especially for those who live day to day, hand to mouth, as they are called, they are ordinary people.
A large number of people in this country, the boda-boda people, the people in the markets, the tax drivers, the tauts, fishermen, car washers, and many others depend on what they earn that day. Few of them have any savings. They have no agriculture farms. Therefore they cannot stay home for more than a few days. If they did stay home for more than a week they have depended on others to support them. Those others are relatives, friends but most importantly government. Beyond that, many would have starved, indeed some have started starving. This is not different for many people in other poor developing countries. But these are not ordinary times. The Coronavirus pandemic required everybody to stay at home as a preventive measure.
But this has worked only for the salary workers who have a monthly pay and the salary possibly continues to come. This is only for the government and big organizations, some private sector organizations have laid off staff. Also for the very rich who have resources can afford staying home. They stocked up food for some time. If the lockdown continues for long they will experience problems not for lack of money but possibly breakdown in thesupply chain. If it is over quickly, they will soon be out of these problems. But for people who live day today they didn’t have the resources to stock up food. They have to work or sell to survive, but now for or to who, if most people are out of town! Besides it was not easy and it is not easy in the Ugandan conditions to stop the sale of freshfood because Ugandans largely depend on fresh foods.
Some of the food is dried like maize, rice, beans but largely, Ugandans eat is fresh food, so stopping it would cause various problems. First of all for the farmer who would loose an income, and secondly for those who depend on it as a business, for the income and thirdly for the people that eat it since they have little alternative. This poses a problem in the lockdown. But the assumption, this is a temporary measurement. It is painful but worthwhile. These are unique moments in the world history.
The lockdown was intended to benefit Ugandans and ensure that they don’t contract the virus, but it has the above and other challenges. We now need to pick it from here and improve it. While some of the challenges are inevitable, there are those that are typical Ugandan which are repugnant. Some Ugandans have acquired or built behavior that are ordinarily not acceptable in an upright society. This has now become a typical Ugandan behavior. Bribing our way, stealing, forging and forgetting that it’s our health and our lives that we are endangering. It is reported that there has been corruption in the issues of the carstickers.
So in the last few days the number of vehicles in Kampala has been very high. People making a killing on these either forged stickers or genuine stickers that have been sold by those who hand them to others. What we forget is the cost of all this corruption or carelessness is our own lives. I wish that this video in Ecuador could be shown to a larger number of people to know what is happening around the world.
There were also reports that some people in the National Task Force that is responsible for buying and distributing food to vulnerable Ugandans have either stolen the food or used the money for other purposes! And some of these people are in the category of those who can afford. What a pity!!! We are remaining with about two weeks (16days) of the lockdown. If the country can simply close down in those 16 days,we would then possibly know who is carrying the virus and who is not.
This is a make or break for Uganda. These are very crucial days. What needs to be done? Extreme conditions at time need extreme measures.We need to be very alert. We need to spot sick and potentially sick people. This needs a very good monitoring system. Who is entering the country? Who have they associated with? I would imagine, no body at all should enter the country for these remaining 16 days.Even LC1 should be able to report about the state of the health of the people in a specific area. If we are to find out who is sick in the country, the time is now. The President should encourage voluntary reporting of the sick people so that they are tested.
This is a matter of life and death.Encourage, sensitize and educate ordinary people about the vagaries of the virus and the need for social distancing to prevent the infection. I passed by the Banda market on Jinja Road but I was embarrassed and shocked by what I saw. The Market was operating normally, no social distancing, I guess no hand washing. There must be other markets. With the various challenges that you get with the coronavirus pandemic, this behavior was very risky for all those involved. We must change.Sensitize Ugandans that it is our lives that we safe guarding. If we don’t change we are dead. This is a massive program on TV and Radio but we need cadres. Those people who will be committed to trying to solve the problem genuinely rather than profit from it. These cadres can manage the programme of sensitizing Ugandans.There have been many predictions of how many people will die in Africa.
The numbers are staggering. There are still conspiracy theories that Africa by all means get this virus and that it will be bad. If not introduced another way, going by what exists, we can defeat this if we are disciplined! If we stay at home, observe social distancing, and do as the Ministry of Health has told us. Just go out when necessary, say buy food or visit a health service or those who serve us in those facilities. The unavoidable outings should be controlled. If we are to go out to the supermarket, the supermarket owners should ensure that people do not come close to one another, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), People should have facial masks and especially those serving others. Limit the talk between people. Tell people, tell them, teach people, teach them, so that we can be safe.
The biggest disease is corruption. How does this country stop this corruption pandemic? In our own circumstance, people are trading their own lives. What a pity and what is wrong with us. Uganda has this major challenge. As we give out food to those who are vulnerable,officials get involved in corrupt practices. Mbu they steal and profit from it. As we give outpermits to enable essential vehicles to deliver service, some people sell their permits and get profits from them. Those who buy these permits commit acts of corruption but also knowingly expose themselves to the deadly coronavirus disease! What is wrong with us?? We are in unique difficult times. It is an Opportunity to style up.
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