So, we are all having a tough time from the COVID lockdown and restrictions. What if we had to leave our homes each day to collect water from a common well, and carry it back home, on foot? What if we had to gather sticks for firewood, in order to cook our food? No electricity means no refrigeration, means leaving home each day, just to purchase something to eat. What does “slowing down the economy” mean in a country where the average income is less than $5 per day?
Listen to my interview with Fr. Boniface from Uganda. He doesn’t complain. He just explains. People are starving.
Around the 28-minute mark, I asked Fr. Boniface: is someone forcing Uganda to shut everything down? He told me that the international agencies offered the President of Uganda financial assistance to deal with the coronavirus. Of course, there were strings attached. If you accept the money to help with the pandemic, you have to have 60 or 90 days of lockdown.
Uganda has had the same president since 1986. He accepted the money from the international agencies. He imposed the lockdown, shutting down everything but “essential” businesses, which happen to include the military. The government promised to distribute food to everyone in the country. In the beginning, they even forbade anyone else from distributing food. They finally relented and allowed the Church to assist in delivering food.
But the people believe that the government is manipulating food and the economy to influence next year’s upcoming election.
Did I mention that President for Life has been magically reelected every 5 years for the past 35 years?
Did I mention that as of today, July 28, 2020, Uganda has had a grand total of 1100 coronavirus cases, which amounts to 25 cases per million population? They have reported .04 deaths per million population.
At best, the lockdown, bought and paid for by the international agencies, is wanton indifference of the haves toward the have-nots. At worst, it is the most outrageous war on the poor I have seen in my lifetime.
Look, I have held my peace about the corona virus here in the US. You can believe whatever you want to believe about infection rates or mortality rates or anything else. Surely we can all agree that in Uganda, the proposed cure for the corona virus is far worse than the disease itself.
So I have something to say to the top dogs in the public health establishment. What did you geniuses think was going to happen in a desperately poor country, with a President for Life? Didn’t it enter your minds that a guy like that might just manipulate the situation for his benefit? Didn’t you ask yourself what it would mean to “lock down” an economy where the average person lives on $5 per day?
If you are in the middle to upper management of the public health sector, I make a special appeal to you: I know you are not making the policies. But you are in a position to make a difference, to shift the policies. You can have influence in ways that ordinary citizens cannot. Ask yourself: is this what you got into public health to do: prop up corrupt dictators? Starve poor people? I can’t believe that of you.
And finally, I have an appeal to everyone else: if you possibly can, send some money to Fr. Boniface and his diocese. They can get the food to the people. Money that seems like a small amount to us, can go a long way over there. And share this video. You will see a gentle and holy man. I couldn’t get him to get mad at anyone. But he has no illusions about what he is dealing with.
And neither should we. I hope you’ll contribute whatever you can to help the people of Uganda. After all, don’t these lives matter?
I’m Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse for the Ruth Institute.
My interview with Fr. Boniface: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWxgv0YcXmA&t=9s
Annual income per capita in Uganda $1,868. (in 2017 dollars) about $5 per day