Covid relief: Govt to give direct cash

Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja at a recent Parliament sitting. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • New strategy. “We have agreed to have direct payment method and voucher system to provide assistance to the vulnerable people [affected by the second lockdown]. This time, we shall not give food. People have phones, we shall use mobile money. Robinah Nabbanja, Prime Minister.

The government has said it will now use mobile money to deliver cash to vulnerable people who are affected by the second Covid-19 lockdown, which started on Friday night.

The government in April last year during the first lockdown distributed food to the urban poor, majorly in Kampala Metropolitan area, but a number of eligible people said they didn’t get.

The distribution was marred with corruption and accountability issues that have not been resolved to date.

Addressing journalists yesterday in Kampala after a closed-door meeting with members of the Covid-19 National Task Force, the new Prime Minister, Ms Robinah Nabbanja, said she would use a different approach during her tenure.

“We have agreed to have direct payment method and voucher system to provide assistance to the vulnerable people [affected by the second lockdown]. This time, we shall not give food. People have phones, we shall use mobile money. Those who don’t have phones, we shall use voucher system [to give the relief assistance],” Ms Nabbanja said.

Highlighting orphanages and slum dwellers, the Prime Minister said a committee of the National Task Force will sit on Tuesday (tomorrow) to determine the amount that will be given and the time when people will start getting the support.

In April last year, the then Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, said food would be distributed to the about1.4 million vulnerable people in urban areas.

The distribution was conducted at LC1 level and a package of 10kgs of maize flour, 3kgs of beans and packets of salt was to be given to each recipient. Lactating mothers and the sick were supposed to get 2kgs of powdered milk and sugar each respectively, according to Dr Rugunda.

Asked yesterday about accountability for donations made during the first lockdown, Ms Nabbanja said the resources were all given to the Ministry of Health.

The Health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, who was also in yesterday’s National Task Force meeting, said the donations for Covid-19 response last year were used in the right way.

The government received donations from well-wishers and private companies in terms of food, vehicles and cash.

“The donated vehicles were allocated to the districts. The cash donations, which totalled Shs29 billion, were given to the Consolidated Fund and it had to go through all the procedures of public finance and management [of the Finance Ministry],” Dr Aceng said.

“But [all] the money was remitted to the Ministry of Health last week. From this Shs29b money, Shs23b is for procurement of 282 pickup vehicles as was the initial intention of the President. The vehicles will be given to districts for [disease] surveillance and other activities,” she added.

The vehicles were ordered for and will be paid next week, according to the minister.

“A total of Shs3.5b was allocated for the construction of blood banks in Soroti and Arua,” she said, adding that the other money was allocated for the construction of health facilities in Malaba and others and that works are already going on.

On the second-wave crisis, Dr Aceng said they are taking quick actions to reverse.

“We have also asked for a supplementary [budget] to address the oxygen problem in the country and that there is a plan to bring in more oxygen cylinders,” she said, without disclosing the amount.

Several hospitals don’t have enough cylinders for the rising numbers of Covid-19 patients as the second wave of the virus sweeps through the country. 

Up to 1,026 Covid-19 patients are currently admitted to hospitals. The government yesterday reported 1,367 new infections and 34 new deaths for June 18, pushing the cumulative total of infections to 71,543 and deaths to 660. 

Ms Nabbanja directed local governments to use resources at hand to reactivate the Covid-19 community task forces to boost the fight.