Masaka, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Leaders in Masaka city council have started a campaign to block children from accessing markets and hawking as a measure to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Following President Yoweri Museveni’s announcement of a second lockdown, that also included the closure of educational institutions for 42 days, Masaka city witnessed an increase in the number of children selling merchandise in search of survival.
The children some young as six years are selling vegetables, fruits, and other foodstuffs in markets, on streets, while others are also involving themselves in hawking.
Florence Namayanja, the Masaka City Mayor says they have established that the children involved in the trade are at great risk of contracting Covid-19 and transmitting it to their parents.
She says that they have instructed leaders of all markets operating in the city, to ensure that no child is allowed inside the markets until the situation normalizes.
According to Namayanja, unlike the adult market vendors who can observe the preventive standard operating procedures-SOPs and other recommended safety guidelines, the level of adherence by the children is low.
Michael Mulindwa Nakumusana, the Chairperson of Nyendo-Mukungwe division of Masaka City says that they have agreed to conduct operations to arrest all child-hawkers and vendors and prosecute their parents for negligence.
Besides Covid-19, Nakumusana says the area is also registering high incidences of other viral contagious infections of chickenpox, scabies, and measles which also greatly affects the children.
He says the parents have been instructed to strictly keep all the children indoors for purposes of ensuring that they remain safe.
But the new directives by the city authorities have not gone down well with the children engaging in petty trade, arguing that they are going to deprive them of their sources of survival.
Patrick Muweesi, aged 13-years, says he has been vending pancakes and maize for the last two years in Masaka city as a source of income for their family. He has asked the authorities to reconsider their decision on their operations, arguing that they are going to gravely affect many families who are already hit hard by the lockdown.
Records at Masaka Regional Referral Hospital indicate that in the last two weeks, they registered at least 76 Covid-19 positive cases among children, who have eventually infected other people in their homes.