Ugandans stranded abroad, 3 dead in US

Wednesday April 08 2020
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Bereaved. People wait to take bodies of their loved ones outside a cemetery in Guayaquyil, Ecuador, on April 6. At least three Ugandans succumbed to the virus last week; two in New York, and one in New Jersey, according to diplomatic sources. AFP PHOTO

More than a dozen Ugandans are stranded in various cities in the US as the country struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 10,500 people, by press time, nearly half of them in New York City alone.

At least three Ugandans succumbed to the virus last week; two in New York, and one in New Jersey, according to diplomatic sources. The deceased have been identified as Maria Giita, Edward Ssengendo Mugerwa, and a one Mugerwa, a resident of New Jersey.

Ugandan diplomats in New York told Daily Monitor that amid the ongoing crisis over the pandemic, which has since led to suspension of international travel, it is unlikely the bodies will be repatriated back home.

Arrangements have since been made for Ms Giita to be interred in New York this week, attended by only close family members and a church service organised online.

While there are no cases of Ugandans stranded around the New York area, the Ugandan embassy in Washington DC has reported various cases, including groups of Watoto Choir children, one in the South Central state of Texas, and another holed up in Brazil in South America.

There is another group of five children, and one adult currently under care of one charity, World Help, based in Virginia. These, according to multiple accounts, had laid over in Addis Ababa en route to Entebbe when government shut down the airport to passenger planes; after two days in Addis Ababa, they traveled back to Washington as the only option.

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Another group is of students, under a students’ exchange programme, who were due to fly back when the airport was shut down, and were forced back under care of their hosts.

Uganda’s Ambassador to Washington, Mull Katende told Daily Monitor they have recorded several cases of Ugandans—some in groups and others individuals—holed up in various cities.

“This is a crisis time as you know; we have reached out to those who have reached out to us to offer any support we can,” Ambassador Katende said. “We have specifically requested their hosts to keep looking after them until the situation is under control.”

This newspaper has also learnt of a case of one Ugandan in the north eastern state of Massachusetts who contracted the virus but has since recovered after weeks long treatment.

Daily Monitor has also established various individual cases of Ugandans stranded in other parts of the world, in Europe, Asia, and Australia which days ago told some 2 million people on temporary visas, including skilled workers, visitors and students to leave the country amid economic downturn and joblessness.

In the United Arab Emirates, the chairperson of Ugandans Ismail Ssebugwawo in Abu Dhabi reached out to Ugandans, in a circular circulated online, urging those interested to register with the embassy and respective community leaders to prepare to fly back home on an Emirates carrier subject to the Ugandan government’s permission to open the airspace.

The circular indicated that the passengers should not exceed 170, and each will pay Dirham2,200 or Shs2.3 million.

However, the move has sparked jitters among some Ugandans this newspaper talked who questioned the rationale of being tasked to pay for their evacuation flight in such “desperate times.”

In Kampala, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Patrick Mugoya said he was not aware of any arrangements to evacuate Ugandans abroad.

“If you remember well, the President directed the airport be closed off; the only exception are foreign nationals here who are being evacuated, but Ugandans abroad were requested to remain where they are,” Ambassador Mugoya said by telephone.

Meanwhile, last week social media was awash with reports of death of some five Ugandans in the United Kingdom but Uganda’s High Commissioner Julius Motto told this newspaper by telephone that “there are no reliable reports” on the fatalities.

Issue

Evacuate. In Kampala, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Patrick Mugoya said he was not aware of any arrangements to evacuate Ugandans abroad.

musisif@ug.nationmedia.com

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