We have all felt the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the latest surge of cases in Uganda now makes a ‘new normal’ seem further away than ever for our country.
What has come to be known as the second wave in Uganda or the third wave in Africa, is, in real terms, the first, true wave. Last year, Covid-19 deaths were to most people abstract figures published by the Ministry of Health in its daily updates.
Today, for many of us, the situation is beginning to feel like the AIDS crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s, in which the deaths of family and very close friends, office colleagues, neighbours and former classmates brought home the tragedy to us.
The beginning of June marked some of the highest days on record of new coronavirus cases in Uganda, spurring new restrictive measures to be brought in. These latest restrictions include a full closure of all schools and non-essential businesses, as well as places of worship and the national parliament.
For this 42-day lockdown, social gatherings are also being limited, and there are now heavy restrictions on movement, including migration from rural to urban areas.
These dramatic measures, while necessary for the health and safety of the Ugandan people, put yet more pressure on an already struggling country, where this loss of education and income is sure to lead to further hardship for the most vulnerable communities.
With no government welfare programme or additional support outside of NGOs and their local communities, it is estimated that not only will those previously experiencing poverty be in a worsened situation, but that an additional 2.6 million people in Uganda will be forced into poverty due to this latest lockdown.
Ugandan hospitals and medical centres are at overwhelming capacity, and medical supplies including oxygen are dwindling rapidly. After the death of 9 doctors in just a fortnight, with many more frontline workers becoming sick, medical provision in the country is struggling to keep up with adequate medical care to treat COVID-19 patients.
The country is yet to roll out a full vaccination programme, with less than 0.1% having received full vaccination at this time, after delays in donated vaccines.
Our social work team and upskilled network of community volunteers are doing everything they can to respond to the crisis by prioritising support to vulnerable families providing health awareness information, food and healthcare packages and access to any additional services needed (such as educational, financial support services and signposting to health services).