What is the fate of Uganda’s human development?

Monday June 29 2020

 

By Flavia Amayo

Covid-19 is more than a public health catastrophe; it is a human development crisis permeating the economic, social and political facets of human life.

As a measure aimed at curbing its spread, in March 2020, the government closed all institutions of learning and suspended religious, social and political gatherings that collect crowds of people. More directives and guidelines on how to avert the spread of the virus followed suite.

Although the spread of the coronavirus has been controlled, the welfare of many Ugandans who derive their livelihoods from either the formal or informal sector has been detrimentally affected by the crisis caused by Covid-19.

This undermines the country’s effort to enhance her Human Development Index (HDI) which was already pronounced low in 2018. Uganda’s current HDI is 0.528, slightly above average and yet, a low position (UNDP, 2019).

Now, with the current Covid-19 crisis, human development which majorly focuses on three dimensions; human beings living a long and healthy life, accessing knowledge and living decent standards of life is likely to worsen if interventions to curb the spread of coronavirus are not carefully thought out.

It has been postulated that the crisis caused by Covid-19 will drive about 23 million people into extreme poverty, 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy will suffer enormous damage in their capacity to earn a living and the number of people experiencing acute hunger will double to 265 million by the end of 2020 in sub-Saharan Africa (WB, ILO &WFP, 2020).

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These projections are a precursor to the future human development challenges that Uganda and other developing economies are likely to face if interventions to Covid-19 are not consciously selected and strategically coordinated.

Uganda will not be included in above projected statistics only if her Covid-19 intervention strategies are well-thought, systematically coordinated and consciously implemented with the involvement of science and development studies professionals, other humanities experts and communities.

The short and long term interventions of the Covid-19 crisis should not undermine the ability of human suffering from other health complications to access medical care.

In addition, these interventions should not jeopardise good nutrition, access and sharing of any other knowledge that can enhance the capabilities of humans to generate income, attain psycho-social support and access to other basics of life such as food, clothing, shelter, water among others. Frankly, harnessing Covid-19 interventions with all the above mentioned facets of human development requires leveraging sciences and humanities and, in this context, development studies in particular since the crisis caused by Covid-19 is multifaceted.

Therefore, Uganda’s interventions to Covid-19 crisis should: involve sciences and development studies; support people socially and economically depending on their levels of vulnerabilities so that no single human development dimension is undermined; not impede access to other medical care so that people can live long and healthy lives; consciously ensure people access and share all relevant knowledge and information without ado; ensure that standards of living are not compromised.

Placing human development at the center of all interventions is not to downplay the Covid-19 crisis but rather to find a niche that can prevent interventions occasioning other human development crisis.

Flavia Amayo, Department of Development studies, Makerere University

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