Illicit commercial sex is once again thriving in Elegu Township at Uganda’s border with South Sudan, thanks to the long queues of cargo trucks waiting to be cleared to cross the border.
And if the presidential directive to keep lodges closed as one of the measures to curb the spread of coronavirus which causes the Covid-19 pandemic, sex workers and their clients in Elegu found an alternative – doing their trade right inside the trucks.
According to Kassim Akule, the LCI chairman of Lorikwor West village, sex workers found it safe to transact from the hundreds of cargo trucks that line-up the roadsides for several days as drivers go through the clearance procedures which usually last up to four days.
One commercial sex worker claimed that some of the truck drivers have families in Elegu and because of the restriction imposed on them, they are only able to meet their sexual partners in trucks at night.
Amuru LC-V chairman, Michael Lakony says that some of the truck drivers meet with the sex workers in rented grass thatched huts while others prefer to use their trucks as lodges making it hard to enforce Presidential directives.
“And now since we closed the lodges, by evening time, you find women strolling to the trucks. It is from these trucks where they [women] do their sex trade. It has become difficult for security to stop them,” Lakony said.
He blamed the development on the slow clearance process for the trucks to cross over to South Sudan which has left the truck drivers to park by the roadside for several days
The District Woman MP Lucy Akello asserts that district leaders backed by security are finding it extremely difficult to regulate the illicit trade but said the authorities are liaising with relevant development partners to conduct intensive counseling among the sex workers.
“I would request that a separate funding facility be arranged for Elegu. A lot has been said about my sisters but as I woman, I want to organize and talk to them. We need to find out what their major challenge is. Is it economic? Why are they running to the truck drivers? That needs an internal discussion,” Akello said.
Last week, the Minister of Health Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng rallied Amuru leaders to conduct comprehensive risk communication and community engagement to help mitigate the possible spread of the contagion.
Over 1,000 trucks carrying goods are cleared every day in Elegu, at the Uganda – South Sudan one-stop border point.
But with truck drivers being identified as high-risk individuals, the area leaders are concerned that failure to control their contact with community members will increase cases of community infections of COVID-19.