Lessons from Coronavirus so far

For the last about 10 days, President Museveni has been announcing measures almost daily aimed mainly at stopping the spread of COVID-19. This disease is spread by a virus called Corona. The word corona has become as universal as its spread. My two and half-year-old son Ssemuju Ibrahim IV is singing it.

Stay home, wash your hands with soap etc are the universal measures that Mr. Museveni is announcing. More than half of the world population has been ordered to stay home. Therefore nobody can blame Museveni for doing what every sane leader is doing. Already by Wednesday morning the number of COVID 19 cases in Uganda had reached 44.

The only other measure that Museveni is taking long to process is the distribution of relief, mainly food items to the urban poor. Nearly half of the half a million people I represent in Parliament from Kira Municipality are what you call mmere ya leero (hand to mouth). In this category, you find commercial motorcyclists (boda bodas), taxi drivers and conductors. There are also tens of boys operating taxi stages etc. The stay home measure has left them with nothing to eat.

As a result, I answer phone calls every after 10 seconds from people who want food. These people are desperate and are in their thousands. I have given out all that I could mainly maize flour and rice but it is like a drop in the ocean.

Stupid as it was, the order to have us politicians distributing food arrested is what has given some breathing space. But of course, the phone cannot stop ringing. My wife tells me the repeated pleas to the voters of how I am also exhausted are about to cause us depression. It is that desperate.

Mr. Museveni announced that the government will begin food distribution. Of course, we are waiting. Unfortunately as a country, we have missed two opportunities that should have quickened things like food distribution.

Of course, money or lack of it is one of the reasons, this measure (of food distribution) by Museveni is going to delay.

But even when the money is finally got, the distribution of this food is likely to be a nightmare. Mr. Museveni deliberately undermined or neglected the national identification project which should have helped the country to profile its population. Nobody knows how many people are riding boda bodas, taxis, working at construction sites or are selling menvu (yellow banana) in the markets.

Nobody knows where these people live or how many live where. I am told it is in this difficult period that profiling is taking place. We, therefore, don’t know how many vulnerable people we are talking about. There are people who in Museveni’s Uganda are permanently vulnerable but there are also those that have turned into destitute because of coronavirus measures. All these need help.

Thousands were depending on their children and spouses working abroad who are not working anymore. 

It is a real crisis. The real cost will be known afterwards.

Anyone who takes over Uganda after Museveni must conduct a genuine population census and issue every citizen with a national identification card. We must try as much as possible to understand the demographic nature of our population. This is possible. In a difficult period like this one, we will know offhand who needs food on day one and who will need food after a week.

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