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Weekly Update and Start of Mini Updates

{Uganda has entered a period of lockdown as they struggle with COVID variants and a dearth of vaccine. Andrew has started working only from home and is pulling together smaller updates. This week’s post has the last full week update and the start of the mini-daily updates. These mini-updates will continue for the next few weeks. We hope these keep you informed until he can once again get out into the community.} -ed

Cissy’s unfinished stall

Greetings to you all,

I hope that you are well. 

I have grown to believe that we are all creatures of similar habits or routine. Each opportunity we get, we do pretty much the same things. The first time we or I experienced lockdown just over a year ago, I started to do certain things like gardening. A few months later, the restrictions were lifted and some of these things I did, I stopped. I don’t know whether I was killing time or I actually loved what I was doing at the time. The moral of this story is that whereas places like Canada are experiencing the 3rd wave or phase, Uganda is experiencing the second wave of infection and people are now dying. I can literally hear the sirens of ambulances because I live near the main road. Even now as I sit on the veranda writing this report, I can still hear them go back and forth. I don’t think I have heard this many sirens in my entire life. This week we recorded over 600 deaths plus and the numbers are fast growing. I use a platform called whatsApp and at least I see a story or a post of someone who has lost a loved one on their status. 

This last week President Museveni put the whole country on lockdown again. No cars,  except if you are carrying a patient, no public means for 42 days. The only available means of transport is cycling and motorcycles (boda boda) are only allowed to carry luggage and they can only operate until 5pm. We are not allowed to cross into any other districts. I understandably get the point why he has done this but also lots of Ugandans work and earn daily on what we call hand to mouth. The good thing is he has not closed shops apparently so we can still buy food but how shall we all afford this food. Unlike last time when they distributed food to people, this time there is no plan to do that. According to some sources, we hear that the government has decided to distribute a certain amount of money to people’s phones so they can buy whatever they want. I find this a very hard task given the fact that some of us within reach of the central district didn’t get the food.

In this current situation where we literally don’t have any vaccines left because we purchased less than a million vaccines, we are all left in fear of the unknown. I was listening to one of the political radio programs on Saturday morning and it is worrying, the countries who are selling us the vaccine like India have decided not to sell as they make efforts to vaccinate their own. The president mentioned that we are in the process of manufacturing our own and I thought he must be out of his mind that’s for sure. In a country where hardly anything works, how can we produce a vaccine for a pandemic? Our hospitals hardly have medicines for regular illnesses like Malaria that we have had for years. How will we figure out a vaccine for Covid? I was disgusted by his speech, forgive my language. 

On this note, I think I should get back on the course that will probably help our Mamas to sail through the pandemic. It was unfortunate that I had to stop my physical visits early last week given the status of the pandemic and also the directives from the government. I was lucky to take off a day to get my internet sorted and also buy some food for the lockdown. I usually like to buy from my Mamas so I got my rice, sugar, peas and other dry goods from Pulakiseda who has been doing well after the restriction had been lifted. I don’t know what it is going to be like in the next few weeks for them.

I physically managed to visit Christine N, Maria A, Cissy N and Annet N. These Mamas live a bit out of the central district and I was lucky that I managed to see them before we were eventually put under lockdown. The rest who I managed to reach by phone include Francoise L, Rovence N, Florence A, Jennifer N and Jane N. 

Maria shelling beans

I am happy to report that Maria has brought her pigs back in the sty safely. The last time you read about her, she had been attacked by the swine fever that killed most pigs in her district. She was really lucky that she sold off the remaining few that were safe. She had to then wash her pig house and disinfect it, leaving it empty to dry for at least two weeks. She finally transferred the little ones from the temporary shelter back to the main sty. She is happy that they are back in the sty and none of them are sick at the moment. She told me that the pigs had started digging through the flour and destroying the house. The house she had moved the pigs to was an ordinary living house not a sty. 

Naughty piggy full from eating flour in the house!

I am happy that she had saved up some money from the sale of the pigs so that she was able to buy the little piggies food. Feeding is usually difficult during these hot days because the farmers don’t have a supplement from the gardens so they feed on maize brand which is usually expensive.

Christine N. was also able to sell off the two large uninfected pigs that she had remained with in her sty. Her piglets are picking up well too, all of them are healthy. This is another good sign that they didn’t catch the fever that would probably have killed them. 

Christine at her sty

The chicken farm is doing well and the chickens are becoming bigger. They for weeks had been suffering from a sickness that caused a number of them to die but she has now recovered. She has separated males and females as it is her usual practice and since she has adequate space, it has become easier for her. She says this separation helps her to monitor the feeding habits and also reduces the fights between the birds. The feeding part helps her to feed the chickens more because they need to lay eggs so she prioritizes them. 

Her side business of the bricks did not go well as planned because she lost quite a number of them in the burning process and also the fact that some did not bake well. This hampered her profits but she remains positive because she knows what caused it and next time she will buy more firewood and also not to make too big a kiln. 

Cissy with her grandchildren

There is nothing much going on for Cissy N. since kids were returned home from school by the government. Due to the high rates of infection in schools in both teachers and students, the government decided to close all schools. Some Mamas like Cissy are big time caretakers for most of their grandchildren. When the kids returned, all her plans went on hold because like many other parents she wasn’t prepared for this abrupt return. This affected her financial plans and has since diverted all her savings into feeding and taking care of the kids. This meant that her plans halted because she had bought sand and cement to finish her stall but unfortunately this all has to stop.

Annet N. has been doing really well herself especially for her business. She has moved to a semi temporary place from the last place she was, besides the supermarket. She was happy with the new place she got but the business was a bit slow from the first directives and as I write this it might be harder for her to access her place. The challenge with Annet has always been finding her at her business location because of the nature of the business she does. She sells breakfast i.e tea, porridge and snacks by the road and her business is very time sensitive so sometimes I am not able to find her at her station.

Annet cooking lunch and sharing a laugh with Andrew

At the time of my visit with her, she was making lunch for her children. All of them had moved from the village back to her house so she goes early in the morning and returns just before lunch. She tries to return early because she has to prepare lunch for them before noon. Her kids are still young and they can’t cook or make the fire by themselves.

I will be following Annet closely for the next few weeks and see what is going on in her life. These lockdown times usually are disastrous to the food dealing Mamas.

The following Mamas, I was only able to reach them by phone because of the circumstances at hand.

Jennifer N. has been at home since last week after closure of the building she sells her second hand shoes from. The government directive was not to close these malls but ensure that Standard Operating Procedures are adhered to which is hard. Now the challenge with these second hand markets, social distancing is almost impossible so the owner had his building locked up. The second thing is that Jennifer lives a little bit out of town and commuting would be hard to the town, so she decided to stay home. 

At the moment she is doing okay. She managed to get herself some food for her family and she will stay home for a few more days. I am glad that she is more prepared for this lockdown unlike the other.

Francoise L. is doing well. She is taking her medication and also ensuring she picks her meals from Rovence. I call both of them to ensure that Francoise eats her food.  Speaking about Rovence, she told me that business has slowed because of the lockdown so she has also cut down on the amount of food she is making. Nonetheless, she ensures to keep an extra plate for Francoise every day. 

Jane N. who is having property sale troubles with her ex husband is okay. The talks and discussions have been halted by the lockdown so the property developers have said they will return after the lockdown has been lifted. This means that Jane will have some piece of mind for just over a month.

Florence A. is doing okay. I was worried that her salon would be closed but she told me that she is doing fine. The chips are selling and the other snacks too so she will be comfortable hopefully. She said it does not look as bad because the chips are still doing well, we hope it stays this way for her.

These last few days have been difficult for me, I have not walked out of the house even once. The constant sirens make me think about the different people I know and the possibility that it could be one of them. This variant has done a lot of damage that the Ministry of Health is worried about the rate at which the vaccinated people are dropping. This worries people more, especially the ones who have not vaccinated, meaning that even when the vaccine is available, very few people will take it. 

Anyways, I will remain doing my work remotely from home for the next few weeks as we figure out something and probably when the restrictions are reduced I will be able to make some refreshing movements to our Mamas. For now, adios to physical meetings.

Thank you for continuously following our works and supporting what we do here. We can never stop appreciating. We hope, I hope you continue to support us and send us positive thoughts through these tough times. Stay Safe, Wear your Masks, Maintain Social distance and always sanitize. The world still needs you all.

Betty, pre-COVID and pre-second child

June 22nd to 25th

Yesterday I reached out to Betty and she is doing okay. Of course she is at home at the moment because of the lockdown. I am glad the rumors of the recent lockdown and past experiences have made most of the Mamas learn to prepare for such an event. Her shop has been locked since last week, shortly after she came back from her maternity rest. I am happy to inform you that both the baby and her are well. Betty has almost fully recovered from her c-section. The shop was closed because she had taken a short leave for the birth but now is of course closed until the end of the lockdown.

I also called Immaculate Mbabazi and she is doing okay. I don’t know if she is lucky or not but unlike most people because she works at a hospital she still reports to work. Her clinic is also working because it is an essential service so it is open. They are obviously running out of vitamin C and zinc tablets because of what is going on. The prices of the medication are constantly increasing, she said.

{note: Andrew tells us that the hospitals in Uganda are running out of oxygen and essential medications, and so the common practice has become to treat mild COVID symptoms with vitamin C and zinc tablets, as one might for a cold.} -ed

Apio Dorah is still stuck in Nebbi where she had gone to bury her father. She won’t be able to travel back to Kampala because all inter-district crossings have been restricted. It was unfortunate that the presidential address came later after she had already traveled. The good thing is she only traveled with one child. The rest of her kids are currently with a relative.

Her restaurant remains closed and she wants to actually retrieve her tools and belongings before the month ends because she has not worked in such a long time and so she will not be able to make rent this month. The idea of moving is a lot on her mind and nothing I could say could change her mind. She said the house is managed by a real estate company and she’s supposed to pay at the beginning of the month. She’s afraid that if she can’t pay rent they will hold her belongings and then she will be completely unable to earn a living. She had been scouting the availability of space in one of the shopping malls in town. This is where her sight is at the moment and she wants to pick her items before she gets into more debt.

I spoke Amina Ali today and it is very unfortunate that she lost her husband yesterday. He was a Moslem, and so according to custom he was also buried yesterday. A few weeks ago, her husband was beaten by police after the incident of the shooting at the army general. The police started beating up all the boda riders and he was beaten in the chest. He was later admitted to hospital and was treated for the injuries, but the physicians discovered he has some deeper illnesses, likely COVID-19, that they tried to treat also. 

Unfortunately, yesterday morning he died of the illness. Due to the suspicion of COVID as well as Moslem tradition the family was forced to bury him on the same day. I asked her to be sure to isolate herself since she was the closest caretaker and also ensure to test and get treatment or medication.

Today I read that the French embassy has donated some vaccines to us, so I am happy that we will be getting that soon. 

It is sad to hear that lots of the staff for most of our political leaders’ staff have tested positive for Covid 19 and the parliament of Ugandans scheduled to be closed for a few weeks in the attempt to get all of them vaccinated. 

Today I have spoken to Hamida N, Margaret N. 

Hamida tested positive about 3 weeks ago and has been under treatment for the virus. I am glad to inform you that she has recovered really well and has kept her family under isolation since she discovered her status. 

Margaret N. has been suffering from cough and flu but she is sure it is the ordinary cough and flu rather than the Covid 19 virus. I will keep on checking on her for the next few days and I will let you know. 

Today the President of Uganda declared a public holiday for Friday 25th June as a National Prayer Day. He said that this day shall be used by all nationals to pray for the infected people and pray that the nation can fight the new infection rates in the public. 

I personally believe that the government should be doing better to fight against the rising infection rates rather than just prayer. The solution should be intervention in the way hospitals are charging extravagantly infected people rather than just pray. It is about people being sensitive to the pandemic and being human beings to take care of one another. The secret is simple I believe, wear masks, wash hands and get vaccinated, that’s all. 

I am glad that the road blocks are working and serving their purpose. To limit people from going to town and also vet reasons as to why they have to be there. 

It is my hope that we can maintain this discipline and protect one another. People don’t realize that by limiting their exposure, they protect their loved ones. 

This is what we are going through at the moment. It’s going to be a hard fight but we are not giving up. I call the Mamas everyday and remind them to stay safe and wear their masks. 


Andrew Echel 

Director of Programs, Uganda. 

ISEE Solutions Society. 

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