The director of the Karamoja Private Sector Promotion Center, Jimmy Lomokol, has appealed to the government to ease restrictions on trade in Karamoja so as to forestall an impending food crisis.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni imposed a raft of trade and other restrictions starting mid-March among measures aimed at controlling the spread of the novel Coronavirus, among them a ban on cattle markets. Two weeks later, a partial lockdown was announced.
Lokomol says that the current lockdown has affected the cattle economy on which many in Karamoja depend for their livelihood, leaving many stranded.
“The majority of the Karimojong have been surviving on animal’s trade but since the government announced the lockdown and closed all markets, most traders are stuck after spending all their profits and even their business capital,” he said.
Recently, the government has embarked on a phased easing of some lockdown strictures; however, the ban on cattle markets still stands. Lokomol believes the current situation is unsustainable and could lead to a food crisis in the region.
“The situation is very bad and by next month the region will start registering cases of people dying of hunger because they can’t access markets where they would trade and buy food for consumption,” he said.
Lomokol said by allowing some limited animal trade to proceed under strict supervision and following Ministry of health guidelines, government could avoid hunger-related deaths in the region.
”Many families in the region are currently starving due to lack of market for them to be able to sell and buy food,” Lokomol said.
Andrew Keem Napaja, the district LCV chairperson of Moroto, said the countrywide lockdown worsened the already hard situation in the drought-prone region.
“We have also suffered as leaders because very early in the morning, hungry people come and sit in front of the door, while others follow us up to the offices crying for food,” he said.
Napaja added that even some of the “essential” businesses like banks that remained open have seen a decline in clientele as a result of the restrictions.
“Although there is money in the microfinance support centers and the banks for business, people cannot just borrow the money when the markets are closed,” he said.