COVID-19 lockdown worsens nutrition, food security in Uganda

COVID-19 lockdown worsens nutrition, food security in Uganda

The vulnerable in Uganda are suffering from a worsening food security and nutritional status amid the country’s coronavirus lockdown, according to the Uganda Deputy Country Representative of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) backed by the United Nations (UN).

Uganda has reimposed a 42-day lockdown starting from June 18 following a surge in coronavirus infections.

The ongoing restrictions are believed to have disrupted Uganda’s agricultural supply chain, denying the urban poor access to enough quality food.

Sanyu Rose, a resident of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, is surviving on handouts from friends.

She said the lockdown has cut off her regular source of income.

“When they announced the lockdown, my employer sent me home without a penny. This has greatly affected me,” said Sanyu.

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Under the lockdown, public transport, places of worship, schools and all major business areas are closed. Only essential services like health workers, security and emergency response teams are allowed to operate.

Sanyu has been locked up in a room for a month now without work. She said this has affected her ability to fend for her family. They now eat only one meal a day.

Priya Gujadhur, the Uganda Deputy Country Representative of FAO, said the situation is getting out of hand. The cases of malnutrition could go up as people have limited access to healthy food.

“If they don’t go out, they don’t earn their daily wage. And so, they are going to be eating differently. They might be eating less, or they might be eating less healthy food. And this is what we’ve seen more happening in Uganda to the urban poor,” she said.

The Uganda government is now giving cash handouts to those affected by the lockdown. So far, about 400,000 people have benefited from the relief fund.

But Priya Gujadhur says the government needs to do more.

“So, we’ve got to protect the weakest, and some of the ways to do that are social safety nets. Right? These people don’t have social safety nets. Maybe you got some savings that can help you if you lose your job or maybe I have. But these people do not. So, we’ve got to have them with social safety nets. The government does have some social protection mechanisms, but they need to be reviewed. They need to be repurposed. They need to be scaled up, right? They need to be expanded in scope,” she noted.

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