Uganda: How Museveni Scores On First Lockdown Pledges

In April, the government announced that the country was experiencing the second wave of the pandemic characterised by high number of infections and deaths.

More than 700 people have succumbed to the pandemic in Uganda with many of these occurring in the last three months.

In a bid to curb the increasing number of cases, the President instituted a nationwide lockdown on June 18.

Last year, when the country first registered the Covid-19 cases, the government set up a number of measures including total lockdown.

Only essential businesses such as hospitals, the media and others were allowed to run during this period.

During this time, the President, who was constantly updating the public on the pandemic, made a number of promises to help various groups of people who were struggling during the lockdown.

These include giving monetary assistance to private schools, distributing radios to learners to encourage distance learning, distributing food, making personal protective equipment for health workers, boosting facilities that were handling Covid-19 patients, among others.

Today, the country is in another lockdown and we take stock of the previous promises.

Vaccines

On March 10, the Ministry of Health launched a nationwide vaccination exercise for select categories of persons.

These include the elderly, those with underlying illnesses, among others.

According to the Ministry of Health Statistics, about 831,146 people have so far been vaccinated.

On March 27, President Museveni and first Lady Janet Museveni had their first dose of the Covid-19 Oxford AstraZeneca jab at State House Nakasero in Kampala.

Shortly after being vaccinated, President Museveni told the media: "I am working with my people to develop our own vaccine. Do not think that they just sit in here waiting to be rescued by others. We are a bit late, but we have started now."

Animal trials of the local vaccine were expected to start in June.

It is yet to be determined whether the vaccines are still being made or when they will be released.

School reopening

On October 15, 2020, candidate classes were allowed to resume studies after about six months at home aftter the schools were closed.

However, many private school proprietors said they were broke.

"We are aware of the dilemma of the private schools that were operating on money from banks, etc. We have tried to help the teachers in private schools by giving them Shs20b grant for their SACCO. We shall continue to study and see how the government can affordably, further, support these Ugandans - the teachers," President Museveni said.

He added: "If for some reasons, there are private schools that cannot reopen on account of the obvious disruption of the business, the Ministry of Education is already directed to expand the number of secondary schools.".

But the private school proprietors demanded that banks give them time to recover or find alternative sources of income to pay back the loans they had got.

Many of these schools remained closed even after the schools reopened since they did not get the promised government relief funds.

Another plan was to have government schools which are already struggling with big numbers of children and poor facilitation take in learners from private schools that fail to reopen after lifting the lockdown on schools.

Virtual learning plans

"The government plan for distance learning, through the provision of nine million radio-sets, is on course. The money is available. That route of alternative learning will continue to be consolidated, not only for dealing with the present crisis, but also for the future. That strategy may have some advantages such as democratising access by all to good teachers etc," President Museveni said last year.

Government would have to purchase more than 137,000 television sets if they were to facilitate distance learning as proposed by President Museveni.

However, a November 19, 2020 Budget committee report to Parliament discouraged the purchase of radios for home learning and in turn Parliament declined to approve the Shs336.8 billion supplementary expenditure request for purchase of nine million radios.

The Budget Committee chairperson, Mr Amos Lugoloobi, told Parliament that an assessment of radio assisted learning programmes conducted by the Ministry of Education and Sports falls short of the effectiveness of radio based learning.

"The report indicated that students and parents were not given an opportunity to ask questions directly and time seemed not to be enough for the teacher, because the teacher was rushed to ensure he concludes the lesson," Mr Lugoloobi said.

During the second wave of the pandemic, government realised that a number of children presented signs and symptoms of Covid-19 but the schools did not report this.

On June 6, the President closed the schools again. On Wednesday, Daily Monitor reached out to Mr Alex Kakooza, the Education ministry Permanent Secretary, to inquire how the learning process occurred and will continue during this lockdown.

"I have over answered this question but to let me tell you that we have continued to distribute study materials to our children to continue learning from home on radios and television," he said.

Food distribution

"The government, after properly identifying these people, will distribute food to them in the form of Akawunga (maize flour), beans, powdered milk, sugar, salt, etc. In the meantime, I direct the police to arrest the opportunistic politicians who try to distribute food for cheap popularity. Those are very dangerous to the health of the people. Anybody involved in that process will be arrested and charged with attempted," the President said on March 30, 2020.

On April 4, 2020, food distribution began in Kampala and Wakiso districts.

The beneficiaries being small business operators, who earn hand to mouth, the elderly, sickly, and lactating mothers.

At least 1.5 million people were expected to benefit from the programme but many say they did not get any of it.

During this lockdown, the government plans to send assistance in the form of cash handouts via mobile money. It is not clear how many people will benefit from this but six gropus have been identified. These are boda boda riders, salon operators, cargo loaders, single mothers, people dealing in petty businesses, and youth in slum areas.

Availability of PPEs

"We now have the capacity to make a large number of masks," President Museveni said on May 4, 2020, as he addressed the nation.

This followed complaints from health workers that they did not have the necessary PPEs they required to do their work.

At the time, about 38 companies were making alcohol based sanitisers but since then, several companies have ventured into the business thus lowering the price in the market.

Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health minister, while appearing on NTV'S On the Spot last Thursday, said: "They (PPEs) are expensive and you know very well that the more critical cases you have, the more PPEs you will need. Those PPEs are not easy to wear."

She added: "When people wear them, they need to come out and discard so you can imagine the volume of PPEs that is used at Mulago National Referral Hospital on a daily basis and then translate that to the entire country. It costs billions of shillings."

Free government face masks.

On June 10, 2020, government commenced distribution of free facemasks to Ugandans aged six years and above.

By August 4, 2020, the Ministry of Health published on their website that more than five million facemasks had been distributed in Kampala Metropolitan Area, Wakiso and Mukono districts.

Source: The Monitor

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