How Ebola wrecked livelihoods amid Covid-19 threat

Health teams at Mubende Regional Hospital prepare facilities at the Ebola isolation centre on September 24. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • The Ministry of Health declared the outbreak of the disease in the country on September 20 after a case at Mubende Regional Referral Hospital in Mubende District was confirmed.

The Ebola Sudan virus disease that struck eight districts between September and December, claiming 56 lives, disrupted people’s livelihoods.

The Ministry of Health declared the outbreak of the disease in the country on September 20 after a case at Mubende Regional Referral Hospital in Mubende District was confirmed.

Ebola later spread to Kyegegwa, Bunyangabu, Kassanda, Kagadi, Wakiso, Kampala and Masaka districts, sparking a marathon of emergency response plans to manage and contain the outbreak.

The government imposed a lockdown in Mubende and Kassanda districts, the epicentres.

It also banned passenger vehicle movement in and outside the districts for 63 days. Several businesses that were strategically targeting the passengers and traders were affected.

Mr Michael Ntambi Muhereza, the Mubende chairperson, estimates that more than 50,000 families were affected.

“When you have the boda boda and taxi operators locked out of business, then their respective families have to go the hard way. It was a terrible period although we got some relief food from the Office of the Prime Minister,” he says.

Ms Rosemary Byabashaija, the RDC, says her office was under pressure to ensure that the health guidelines are adhered to and residents get food.

“We thank God that we managed to go through the trying moment where we lost lives but also managed to stop the spread of the disease. We could have lost more lives if the government did not institute the stringent health guidelines, including the lockdown,” she adds.

The most affected areas in the district were Madudu and Kiruma sub-counties and Mubende Municipality.

Mubende Regional Hospital staff were also struggling to come to terms with the loss of their six colleagues.

Ali Muhamadi, a Tanzanian national and medical intern was the first to succumb to the disease at Fort Portal Regional Hospital on October 1. The doctor had been part of the health teams that handled the first Ebola cases at Mubende Hospital.

All six health workers died within the first 35 days of the Ebola outbreak

On December 17, the government announced the end to the 63-day lockdown, bringing some hope to many residents.

However, several residents are still struggling to make ends meet.

Mr Sunday Ssebaduka, a taxi driver and resident of West Division in Mubende Municipality,  says the transport industry has the advantage of quickly catching up if well managed.

“I ply the Kampala-Mubende route. Although the passengers are not many, we are at least working and hope for a better future when Ebola is finally gone,” Mr Ssebaduka says.

“Some of the taxis carry half the number because the travellers are few. We hope that the industry will get busy after the festive season when the children start reporting back to school,” he adds.

Ms Annet Nambalirwa, who operates a clinic at Kibati Cell in Mubende Municipality, says residents are slowly gaining confidence to visit health facilities.

“When rumours spread that several private clinics were not adhering to the Ebola guidelines and partly contributing to the spread of the disease, we lost some of our customers. It is good that the lifting of the lockdown came with the good news that we have no new cases. We are getting more clients,” she says.

In Madudu, residents blame the slow progress of their businesses on the long lockdown.

Mr Godfrey Ssemudu, a vendor and resident of Kijjaguzo Village, says market traders from Mubende face some stigma in neighbouring districts.

“We still face some stigma when we cross to markets in Kakumiro, Kyegegwa and Mityana. The stigma is instigated by fellow traders that want the customers to shy away from interacting with us,” he says.

Mr Deo Ssenono, a salon operator at Kikandwa Trading Centre in Kassanda,  says they are still struggling to get customers.

“The business is open but the customers do not have the money. The boda boda riders that used to visit my business are servicing their loans and do not want to spend money on particular items,” he says.

Ms Phoebe Namulindwa, the Kassanda RDC, advises residents to work hard and remain vigilant.

“When we follow the health guidelines, the residents will quickly get back to their normal activities,” she says.

Out of the confirmed 142 cases, Mubende has 66 cases and 29 deaths while Kassanda has 49 confirmed cumulative cases and 21 deaths. Both districts have not registered any new cases in the past 40 days.


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