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Workers slowly abandoning urban life for villages as lockdown bites

FILE PHOTO: People have resorted to settling in villages where they believe they can easily get some food to eat

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A number of people are abandoning urban life and slowly settling into villages as a result of inactivity that came with the COVID-19 lockdown. In Kasese district, the number of settlers is swelling as day by day, more people are arriving after trekking hundreds of kilometres to get home.

Several Ugandans have lost jobs while those in self-employment have also remained redundant since the declaration of a lockdown enforced as part of the measures to control the spread of the novel coronavirus disease. Uganda has so far registered 52 cases of the virus which has also affected more than 1 million people across the world.

As shops remain closed, companies working at a small scale and public transport are suspended, a number of urban residents are struggling to make ends meet with nothing to eat and no money to clear their bills. They are desperately abandoning the life they were so accustomed to, to return to the village.

Joseph Kato, an employee of a private a construction company in Ishaka Municipality, Bushenyi district says he decided to return to his home in Hima, Kasese district because he was not sure of getting food that would sustain him throughout the lockdown.

Kato who spent three days on the road walking to meet his family says the company had not paid their salaries for the month of March by the time the lockdown was announced.

John Tumwesige, who was working with a milling company in Rwimi, Bunyangabu district walked all the way to Rubirizi district after the factory laid off some workers to comply with a directive to maintain only its essential staff on the site.

For four days, Tumwesige was on the road walking with the hope that at his father’s home, he would access food and shelter.

Umar Rwasanga, a fuel attendant in Rugendabara, notes that his boss reduced their staff after registering low business following the suspension of public transport. Although they received some package, he was worried that the little money couldn’t help him survive throughout the 14 days at his place.

Vincent Namanya who trekked over 25 kilometres from Bunyangabu district to Kasese says he choose to travel back home so that he can share the little money he has left with his family.

Enid Mbabazi, a breastfeeding mother walked from Hima to Kasese town after her boss closed his retail shop. Mbabazi who was entitled to meals at her job was left with no option but to return home.

This movement also comes in a time when the president’s efforts are geared towards eliminating person to person movement as a measure in control of the spread of coronavirus.



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