AFRICA/UGANDA - Covid-19: containment measures work, but the damage to the economy is serious

Wednesday, 29 April 2020 coronavirus   poverty   farmers   civil society   healthcare  

Gulu (Agenzia Fides) - The virus has not yet reached Gulu. At St Mary's Lacor Hospital, however, everything is ready. Non-acute patients were sent home. The Medicine department has been equipped for the infected by Covid-19. A dozen intensive care beds have been set up, with five ventilators (others are coming). "In Uganda - Cristina Reverzani, a volunteer doctor who works in the obstetrics and gynecology ward of the Catholic hospital, owned by the diocese, explains to Fides - the coronavirus epidemic has been taken very seriously. On March 22 the first case was registered and the borders were blocked, schools and sacred places were closed. Three days later public and private transport was stopped and the market lockdown was proclaimed. Law enforcement was very severe. Too much, to the point that President Yoweri Museveni intervened to ask for more clemency".
The measures seem to have worked. Currently there are not more than sixty cases and no deaths. "Most of these cases - continues the doctor - are people who were infected abroad and brought the virus back to Uganda. It must be said that some factors seem to preserve the population from the coronavirus. The population is very young (average age under 17 years old), vaccinations against TB and a mild climate (above 20°) seem to represent natural barriers to the infection. Nothing is scientifically proven, but the swabs that are regularly carried out on Ugandans are practically all negative".
The population of Northern Uganda is frightened, still remembers the devastating ebola epidemic that hit the region in the early 2000s. "The memory of that epidemic is particularly vivid - continues the doctor -. The Acholi population who lives in this area has done an ancient ritual to cast out the virus. It had not been repeated since the times of Ebola".
Although the contagion is not spreading much, the virus is still causing enormous economic damage. "The lockdown - explains Elio Croce, a Comboni missionary who has been serving in Uganda since the 1970s in favor of orphans, the sick, the disabled, child soldiers, victims of AIDS and Ebola - blocks travelling and this greatly damages poor people who earns a living day by day. Farmers cannot sell their products. And they have nothing to take home. Children do not go to school and so fathers and mothers find themselves having to feed other mouths. For many families the situation is becoming difficult".
The lockdown should end on May 5: "We must resist until then - concludes brother Elio - then we hope that there will be an opening that allows a recovery of life if not at normal levels, at least to allow poor people to obtain the necessary". (EC) (Agenzia Fides, 29/4/2020)