Why 7.7m poor people missed Covid-19 money

Wednesday July 14 2021

Covid-19 has seen a number of Ugandans lose jobs and incomes. PHOTO | FILE

By Damali Mukhaye

More than 7 million Ugandans who can hardly earn or spend Shs3,500 per day missed the government Covid-19 relief cash, according to analysis of the figures from Uganda Bureau of Statists (Ubos).  

Although government cash relief targets only 501,107 vulnerable people, the latest 2019/2020 National Household Survey data, puts the number of poor Ugandans at 8.3 million, leaving out 7,798,893 people. 

Majority of the poor people who should have benefited from the government’s Shs100,000 relief cash live in northern and eastern parts of the country. 

According to Ubos figures, eastern and northern regions, which have the highest number of poor people, instead received the least beneficiaries, compared to western and central regions, which have the least number of the poor, but got a lion share of  the Covid cash.

The northern region has the highest number of poor people followed by eastern at 2.8m. Western has 1.5m while central has 1.0m.  The pandemic and the second lockdown imposed by the government on June 18, has worsened the situation for most of the poor people. 

Those who talked to Daily Monitor called for a rethink of government relief programme even as government officials insist some of 7.78m are poor but not vulnerable.


Ubos bosss peaks out

The Ubos boss, Dr Chris Mukiza, said not all the 8.3 million poor people are vulnerable and would need government support during the lockdown because some of them, who are in rural areas,  feed on produce from their farms.

Dr Mukiza, however, said given the context of the  lockdown, the situation of those who were poor before the lockdown could have worsened because they can no longer earn a dollar (Shs3,500) that they used to earn because they are home.

He said the Gender ministry used wrong data to access the vulnerable groups. 

“The Ministry of Gender was using wrong data. Vulnerability depends [on prevailing situation]. That is why I talked of floods in Bududa or when there is a drought or somebody who spends more than a dollar a day is hit by crop failure, he or she becomes vulnerable,” he  said. 

Last month, Ms Amongi said government was going to involve Ubos in identifying beneficiaries of the Shs100, 000.

But Dr Mukiza said their services have not been utilised in the ongoing identification of the beneficiaries, whose legitimacy has been questioned by the public and Opposition leaders after names of dead people surfaced on Kampala lists.

Govt responds 

The Minister for ICT, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, explained that the 8.3m poor Ugandans are different from the vulnerable group that government is giving Shs100,000.

Dr Baryomunsi  said the people who fall in the 8.3m category can continue accessing other poverty eradication programmes such as Emyooga (Microfinance Finance) and Youth Livelihood Programme under the Gender docket.

“Government is right now targeting only those who were severely affected by the lockdown. The other ones can make use of the existing government programmes to get out of poverty,” Mr Baryomunsi said.  

Former presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye and the Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago have consistently poked holes in the government Covid-19 relief response. 

Dr Besigye yesterday labelled the government Covid-19 response “discriminatory” and offered a raft of alternative measures of dealing with the crisis in the country (See page 8). 

The Leader of Opposition, Mr Mathias Mpunga, has also asked government to extend the Covid-19 relief to all districts across the country. 

Who is poor?

According to Ubos, a household is said to be poor if its consumption expenditure per adult equivalent is below the minimum income required to meet the basic needs (food and non-foods). The government on June 20 announced that it would send cash handouts to vulnerable Ugandans whose businesses had come to a standstill due to the lockdown. Officials identified 16 categories to access the funds, including boda boda cyclists, taxi and bus drivers and conductors, salon attendants, bar attendants, and street vendors among others.

How are you surviving without Covid-19 cash?

Mansoor Lukyamuzi, taxi driver, “I have three wives and eight children that I am almost failing to look after. Should the worst come to the worst, I am just going to dump them at a police station so that government looks after them.’’

Ismail Kakembo, taxi tout, “I registered for the money two weeks ago, but up to now, none of my colleagues including has received the money. I have three children and looking after them is becoming a gamble.’’ 

Charles Karamagi, special hire driver, “I registered with my colleagues at Nakawa Stage, but we are surprised to hear that in the entire division, only six people have received the money. I have a wife and three children.’’

Zaina Namuzungu, beauty attendant, “Since the last lockdown, I lost my job and I ended up starting to wash clothes for soldiers at Mbuya Barracks to get some money for survival. I am not sure if this government money will come.’’

Hillary Mukirize, artiste, “I am yet to understand how some of us who have National IDs but without mobile phone numbers will access the money. I cannot feed my wife and child anymore, survival is becoming very difficult.’’

Vincent Ssozi, cobbler, “Since the lockdown, I lost customers and I also registered for the money hoping that I will get it, but I have not got. I have two children and a wife. We have borrowed food from neighbouring shops.’’

Baker Ntale, loader, “I was the first victim of last year’s lockdown. I used to make metallic suitcases for students, but that business is no more. I recently got Shs350,000 from an NGO, which ordered for money saving kits.’’

Doreen Namukwaya, food vendor, “I was registered two weeks ago but I have not got anything. I am a single mother of three children. I resorted to is buying and selling vegetables so that I can feed the children.’’

Doughlous Jachan, boda boda rider, “I was not registered for the government money. I did not see any one registering people. We are just surviving by the grace of God.’’

[email protected]