Uganda confirmed its first case of Covid-19 on March 22nd, several months after cases began hitting the rest of the world. The first case was a Ugandan man returning from Dubai, who presented with a fever at Entebbe Airport, and was immediately isolated in the hospital. As of today, after thousands of tests, Uganda has confirmed a total of 53 cases, with 0 related deaths. Of these, most have been "imported" through those returning from international travel, but a few have been "contact" cases of returnees, and one case was of a man who frequently does business on the South Sudan Boarder.
Map of the confirmed Covid-19 cases in Uganda
Current policies mandated by the Ministry of health and President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, have been enacted to stop the spread. The country is at a standstill: no entering or leaving Uganda by air, road, or water. No gatherings of more than 5 people. No public transport or private cars allowed to move unless with appropriate and prior approved exceptions. No boda bodas carrying passengers. No open air markets. No school. All businesses except those related to food, medicine, or essential services, are closed. And a mandatory curfew of 7 p.m. has been enacted. The approach is similar to that of the Western World, which have been hit harder by the virus thus far.
While these protocols are necessary for reducing the virus' spread and keeping people safe and healthy, and while the government is working tirelessly to ensure the vulnerable are being provided for, it is still important to understand that lock down and social distancing are temporary mitigations that are easily done in developed nations, but more challenging in developing nations. It is difficult to social distance when you live in a two-room house with multiple family members or have neighbors close by, as some of our friends and borrowers in Buyobo do. It becomes a challenge to sustain your family when livelihoods depend on going to the garden every day to ensure your family has something to eat, or produce to sell to keep your small business operating. The ability to pause life temporarily is a privilege.
And as you can expect, this has already impacted our borrowers, whose businesses require open air markets and travel, and may not be related to food or medicine, and may not be considered essential services. It has also affected our staff, who often travel on public transportation to reach our office, and loan collection centers. And not to mention the rest of Uganda, which is home to entrepreneurial individuals who live "hand to mouth" and need to work daily to afford something to eat for that day. While some are still able to keep their businesses running, others have had to deal with the effects of temporarily closing their businesses until the situation improves.
But it's not all bad news! If all goes well, the lock down will be lifted by April 22nd, and the Ministry of Health has declared schools will reopen on the 27th, given an improvement in the situation. With a proven track record of dealing successfully with outbreaks of infectious diseases like Ebola and Marburg, we are hopeful that the Ministry of Health and government of Uganda will be able to curb the virus' spread and bring Uganda back to equilibrium.
For now, we will weather the storm, "together".