What you need to know:
- You should also care that those young people working under the scorching sun and rumbling rains that characterize Kampala stay safe and live to see another project.
A 20-year-old lad, Isabirye (not real name) from Bugiri was encouraged by his cousin in Kampala to come to the city in pursuit of a job.
His parents were too poor to afford him further education than mid O-level.
For a couple of years, he languished in the village attempting some subsistence agriculture on the family small plot. Fast forward, he was enlisted into a roads construction company as a porter.
At 20 years, he had never been to the city or anywhere outside his village or lived as an independent individual away from his kith and kin.
He worked on the project for its six-year duration.
On such mega-projects as roads and hydropower dams, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of such casual workers like Isabirye; young, naïve, high on adolescent adrenaline and with a regular-predictable income!
On payday, it is a bonanza. The casuals indulged! Alcohol and sex.
Anyone that has had an experience on huge infrastructure projects such as dam construction or what is currently happening in the Albertine graben, will attest to what has come to be termed the “payday syndrome”, where there’s an influx of sex workers at construction sites on the day payments are made.
This puts the life of Isabirye and the hundreds of his colleagues at risk, especially if they were not equipped with deliberately crafted information on HIV/Aids. Even more at risk are the host communities.
It is from such existential threats that the government, through the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) included into the law Environment, Social and Health safeguards (ESHS) in the public procurement process. Section 61A of the amended PPDA Act 2021 dictates to every government agency to include in their procurement process social inclusion and environmental protection to the greatest extent.
In the on-going African Development Bank Funded Kampala City Roads Rehabilitation Program KCRRP; there was some cry and hue when the public saw trees lining PortBell road being felled to allow for expansion of that road.
To allay your fears, the project shall ensure the planting of 1000 trees across Kampala to offset this!
For a discerning eye, you will notice HIV/Aids murals and placards conspicuously lining the shoulders of the roads being constructed as an ‘in-your-face-reminder’ to the Isabiryes on the project and their host communities to stay ‘woke’.
This is enshrined in the contract and our supervision on the project progress considers these elements as importantly as the quality of asphalt used and the method of its application!
Educational activities are now complemented by the provision of onsite medical services, including supplying condoms and facilitating access to voluntary counseling and testing. These services are accessible to both the project staff and the host communities.
Drawing from the above, it is therefore a travesty when a prominent city politician took to TikTok to denigrate such a life-saving intervention embedded in project development and bustardised its invaluable importance, in a desperate but futile attempt at scoring a cheap political jab.
The thousands of Isabiryes working on these projects, their parents and the tens of thousands of young people in the host communities that will interact with the Isabiryes over the next 30 months will bear witness that the cost of supplying them condoms among other services, denigrated and ‘comedified’ by those who should care, pales in comparison to the risk of the alternative.
If you care to have beautiful boulevards for roads in Kampala, you should also care that those young people working under the scorching sun and rumbling rains that characterize Kampala stay safe and live to see another project.
Mr Simon P. Kasyate is the Deputy Director – Public & Corporate Affairs
Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA)