The government will distribute food to Ugandans only in Wakiso and Kampala districts for now despite objection from Parliament on the methodology of distribution and question of beneficiaries.
During a heated plenary on Thursday, Parliament chaired by the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga asked the Government to halt the food distribution during this Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, saying in most cases programs meant to benefit Ugandans end up in Kampala and Wakiso and that the intended beneficiaries do not get any benefits.
The government will from Saturday, April 4th give 1.5 million Ugandans 3 kilograms of beans, six kilograms of flour and salt. Lactating mothers and the sick will be given 2 kilograms of powdered milk and 2 kilograms of sugar. Government says the relief will be distributed through the local council system.
The MPs emphasized that the Government should come up with adequate information on how they plan to distribute the food when and where and which category of people will benefit.
Although MPs have been asking the Government to include urban areas outside of Kampala, Government has been silent with this with the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda saying they will start small mentioning only Wakiso and Kampala.
Government Spokesperson Ofwono Opondo has said that Government has taken the decision to distribute relief food in Kampala and Wakiso districts.
Ofwono Opondo who posted on social media said Government doesn’t agree with the advice of Parliament to stop the distribution. Parliament’s advice included the fact that the food should be distributed countrywide. Asked to clarify if the food would be given to the vulnerable community countrywide, Ofwono Opondo only said Kampala and Wakiso.
Julius Mucunguzi, the Head Communications and the office of the Prime Minister said Government is currently discussing the modalities of distributing the food. Asked if the food will be distributed countrywide, Mucunguzi asked this journalist to go with what the Prime Minister told Parliament.
In an interview with Hillary Onek, the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees says that the relief is for vulnerable people who are in Kampala and Wakiso but are from different parts of the country, and have a daily income which has been interrupted but also do not have a fallback position like a garden or source of income they can rely on.
He says that the Government’s focus is Kampala and Wakiso, because most of the people in the other parts of the country can easily walk back to their homes and they are not stranded as people in Kampala and Wakiso.
He says in Kampala, people have come from every part of the country, and as long as they are in the categories of boda boda riders, taxi drivers, market vendors, people who wash cars in Kampala among others. He says compared to people in Kampala who totally don’t have a fallback, upcountry people have a fallback position.
Onek says for people in their homes, they should be given seeds to plant through operation wealth creation, and the National Agricultural advisory services (NAADS).
Onek however says if there are cases of boda boda riders, taxi drivers and any other workers who get daily income stuck upcountry, the government will also look at this and support them, but not natives there.
Muwanga Kivumbi, the Butambala MP says that unfortunately parliaments’ role is mostly advisory. He says that MPs raised issues, and wanted to know if Government was going to ensure equity and equality while distributing food.He says although Parliament halted the distribution of food, all Parliament can do is cautioning Government.
“Parliament resolutions are advisory, Government can take them on or reject them. But if the Government ignores recommendations from parliament, it can be called to order. What MPs wanted was not to stop the program but to ensure that it is rolled out across the country urban towns of Jinja, Mbale among others and these are not agricultural towns and they have been equally affected as the people in Kampala,” he said.
The draft budget for the purchase of the relief being discussed by the committee on Budget is 54 Billion shillings for the 30 days.