A second wave of Covid-19 is devastating lives in Uganda amongst acute shortages of vaccines and oxygen. In the space of a week Uganda has seen a 30% rise in cases, wreaking havoc on the country’s fragile health system. We are already hearing reports of many hospitals having to turn away patients as they simply do not have the space to treat them.
By 15th June 2021, the Government of Uganda had reported 64,521 Covid-19 cases with 459 deaths. However, it is feared that the real number of deaths could be much higher due to the increasing stigma around those who have tested positive for Covid-19.
Fear of discrimination means that many people are choosing to stay home and battle the virus, rather than test and seek medical treatment.
Prejudice means that even those patients seeking treatment in hospital are in some cases being denied food or water, as some kitchen staff don’t want to serve Covid-19 patients for fear of catching the virus themselves. Some hospital patients even report struggling to access medication.
Whilst the UK today announced that it would accelerate its vaccination programme, Uganda has received only a third of 3 million vaccines expected from Covax to date. And even when met, those vaccines won’ t be enough to reach the population of 44 million.
The Patongo Youth Centre, a lifeline for many young people, is currently closed due to the lockdown
Over a year since Uganda first went into lockdown, the protracted nature of this crisis has shown us that this is not only a health emergency, but a social crisis. The loss of livelihoods is an enormous consequence of the latest measures to contain the spread of the virus. With restricted movements and as certain businesses such as markets are forced to close, many families will battle hunger as they are forced into a downwards economic spiral. The closure of schools means that even the Patongo Youth Centre cannot open. This will not only impact children’s learning for years to come, but for many children, this is their only safe space; a place where they can speak to a trusted adult as well as learn a vocational skill that allows them to earn an income.
With each school closure, the number of children at risk of falling out of education completely, rises. Whilst the lockdown is due to last 42 days (and may be extended given the current circumstances), many children will not return once schools reopen.
Girls’ futures are at risk as many will never go back to school
For girls, the risks are even greater. This pandemic is stealing girls’ futures with increased rates of commercial sexual exploitation, teenage pregnancies and child marriages.
And what about the children we support at the Kyaka II refugee settlement? They have already risked so much in search of safety, most having fled war and conflict. Lockdowns mean that they will remain excluded from school and their families will have no chance to rebuild their livelihood while they get by on already reduced food rations.
As this current wave of Covid-19 destroys lives across Uganda, we are now at risk of losing an entire generation of childhoods. We cannot allow this to happen.
Images copyright Arete on behalf of Chance for Childhood.