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Uganda Battles COVID-19 and Desert Locusts

Thursday, 23rd April 2020

Efforts by Uganda to fight COVID-19 pandemic have been boosted by a shipment of 300,000 hydrochloroquine tablets from India. The consignment of drugs has been despatched to Novartis, a pharmaceutical company, for onward delivery  to the Ministry of Health which is the coordinating body for the fight against this lethal virus. In line with the long-standing warm relations between Uganda and India, Uganda has requested the Government of India to share drug-making technologies with her so that she can produce hydrochloroquine tablets at home.

Being one of the countries which entered into early lockdown in response to the spread of COVID-19, Ugandan efforts to mitigate its effects have yielded positive results. Its measure of locking and guarding the borders, has ensured minimum numbers of possible carriers of the virus entering the country. Those who are caught trying to enter are sent back to their countries of origin.

Another measure which has yielded positive results is the daily testing of all long-distance drivers ferrying supplies into the country.Through this measure drivers found to be infected by the virus are quarantined. A very strict follow-up of the people such a driver would have interacted with is carried out. Once found, these contacts are also subjected to testing for COVID-19; and if found positive are quarantined.

Uganda shut down institutions and institutional offices including Government and educational institutions at all levels; with the exception of the Ministry of Health institutions. Also not shut down was Parliament which continued to debate and pass Government budget for the next financial year which starts in June.

Currently the resilient people of Uganda are locked up in their homes and villages, brazening themselves for the economic  fallout that is coming in the wake of the pandemic. Some whose daily existence depended on daily earnings, have long sought food and sustenance from the homes of relatives; however distant the relationship. With a modest non-manufacturing economy, the sectors which have buoyed Ugandan earnings most of the time are agriculture and the services sector, particularly tourism. The latter had overtaken the hallmark exports of coffee, beans and tea in recent years; and was ranked the number one foreign exchange earner.  With all the airlines of the world stationed in parking bays in their airports of origin, tourism earnings have simply vanished. As for the usually resilient sector of agriculture, the recent invasion of desert locusts which plagued eastern Africa countries up to the Horn of Africa, has decimated standing crops. There are now fears about the locusts breeding and lying in wait for the crops planted with the May rains.