What many who live in the urban centres of Uganda call home is a one or two roomed house that is located in a congested “affordable area”; essentially slum-like conditions. The rooms, generally, being about five meters by five meters in size. It should be note that the average population size of a household in Uganda is five.
So, in some cases, a household of five that is living in an urban centre in Uganda, such as in the capital city, can only afford a one-roomed house. And in many cases, moreover, these one or two roomed houses in urban slums are semi-detached. This means that multiple households may live packed together in small spaces.
Add to that the fact that such homes often share out-door sanitation services and utilities – as in, they share pit latrines and sources of water and which are often unsanitary, as is usually the case with the tragedy of the commons. Characteristically, it is also often the case that the drainage systems in those areas are either non-existent or are poorly managed.
The Coronavirus, COVID19, has made landing in Uganda and has begun to infect Ugandans. In an effort to flatten the curve, our leadership has urged all Ugandans, except those providing necessary lifesaving services, to stay home. Plenty of food for thought this status quo provides. One asks oneself: has this guideline or instruction, if you will, instead put thousands of Ugandans in harm’s way?
Mark you, one is not advocating that Ugandans should not be requested to practice social isolation, such as staying home. One is just wondering to what effect this is, in the context of the conditions that thousands of Ugandans live in. The reality is that the living conditions for thousands of Ugandans who are living in urban centres are visibly a fertile ground for pandemics to thrive.
The living conditions in which thousands of Ugandans live are the reason why, periodically, there are cholera outbreaks in Uganda’s capital city, case in point. It is also among the reason as to why Uganda has not succeeded in eradicating tuberculosis, which is infecting and killing Ugandans in the thousands annually. This status quo should not be acceptable to all Ugandans.
When Uganda overcomes the COVID19 pandemic, and we will, it is one’s hope that all in leadership in Uganda will do some soul searching. The kind of soul searching that will motivate at least some in leadership to take genuine and meaningful actions that will lead to improving the living conditions of a significant section of Uganda’s population.