Traders cry out for relief food

Relief. A family receives relief food in Wabigalo-Namuwongo in Kampala on April 22. Traders working in various shopping arcades in Masaka Town have asked the government to consider giving them relief food. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA

Traders working in various shopping arcades in Masaka Town have asked the government to consider giving them relief food, saying they are among the people that have greatly been affected by the lockdown.
When the country recorded its first positive Covid-19 case on March 21, government announced a partial lockdown, which has crippled many businesses and confined millions of Ugandans to their homes.

Among the guidelines that President Museveni directed was the closure of all businesses except for those that deal in food-related products.

Led by Mr Vincent Kasumba, the president of the Masaka Municipal Development Forum (MMDF), the traders say by the time President Museveni ordered for the closure of retail shops and shopping arcades, they had little money and are currently struggling to feed their families.

“Many of the people who were working in arcades do not have what to eat, we ask the government to include us among those to get relief food because many of us were dealing in non-food items,” he said during an interview on Monday.

At least, 1000 traders are operating in major shopping arcades in Masaka Town.

Last week, a woman together with her children stormed the office of Masaka Resident District Commissioner, Mr Herman Ssentongo, demanding relief food.

Ms Saudah Nakasaita, a mother of four, who is a market vendor at Nyendo Market, said she lacked food to feed her family.

“I have come here to get assistance. The RDC should provide the food that government promised vulnerable groups before we die of starvation,” she said.
In his address to the nation on April 14, the President extended the lockdown, which was initially 14 days, by another 21 days, and urged Ugandans to remain calm as the situation is addressed.

Meanwhile in Soroti, a 64-year-old tailor in Soroti Town has cried out to government for relief food after failing to find food for his seven children for a period of three days.

Mr Julius Otabuli, a resident of Eastern Division, prior to the lockdown earned a living through sewing clothes in the heart of Soroti town. However, ever since the President announced a lockdown over the Covid-19 pandemic, fending for his family has been a nightmare.

The 64-year-old who stays in one of the classrooms at Swharia Primary School, told Daily Monitor the little money that he had saved is no more, and his entire family of nine, him inclusive has gone without food for the last three days.

“I tried to carry my sewing machine here, but there are no people bringing in materials for me to sew, life is getting difficult,” Mr Otabuli, who was born in Angodo Village, Serere District, explained.

He told this paper that he has reached out to the district taskforce members but there is no food in sight.

“It is my friend of NTV; Milton Opaco who brought me 10 kilogrammes of posho, about 11 days ago, but it is finished,” Mr Otabuli who moves on a wheelchair said.

Meanwhile in Namisindwa District, police have arrested a couple and five family members, who reportedly sneaked into Uganda from Kenya with the body of a new born baby and secretly buried it during the night contrary to the Covid-19 guidelines.

The suspects identified as David Nakhabala and his wife Annet Nasila, together with their sister-in-law identified as Sylvia Buteme, are being accused by the security agencies of illegally crossing from Cheputasi District in Kenya with a dead body.

It’s alleged that the trio crossed into the country using bodabodas upon payment of Ksh600 (Shs21,000) at Bumbo on the side of Lwakhakha border while carrying the dead body in the bag, and later crossed to the Uganda side through the waters that separate the two countries

The said couple feared arrest and being denied entry into the country because of the current lockdown. Most of these porous borders, and gazzetted borders like that of Lwakhakha, Malaba and Busia have been heavily guarded to control the influx of people whom they suspect could transmit the virus.

Mr Kigayi Wamoto, the Namisindwa Resident District Commissioner, said he got an intelligence report that a couple had sneaked into the country with a dead body and reportedly buried the child in the night without informing the authorities.

Mr Wamoto, however, challenged the local residents, especially at the border entry points, to be more vigilant and be patriotic because that is the only way the country and its citizens will remain safe from the deadly Covid-19 virus.

Mr Bernard Nahabale, the area LC1 chairman, said when the local leaders arrived, they found the family members had disappeared to unknown place.

The government, through the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), announced that it was going to distribute food to 1.5 million most vulnerable people in Kampala and Wakiso districts.

The government didn’t explain how they arrived at 1.5m people. Parliament attempted to block the exercise and demanded for a synchronised nation-wide food distribution plan but was disregarded on account of the urgency to respond to the needs of the vulnerable people, especially the urban poor.

President Museveni has stated that people upcountry depend on their gardens and that the lockdown has affected neither cultivation nor harvesting.
Compiled by Malik Fahad Jjingo, George Muron & Olivia Mukaaya