Urban refugees worried of consuming all their capital

By Aggrey Ojok Obwoyo and Moise Mbulula Kakule

In Kampala & Wakiso

Uganda’s favorable refugee policy allows free movement of refugees who can as well engage in economic activities. But most refugees who had engaged in some form of businesses to keep their families running are now stranded as the lockdown bites. Most are not able to get stock from the city centre to re-stock their shops.

Those that had merchandise worry that they may consume all they have within the 42 days lockdown imposed by President Yoweri Museveni on June 18, 2021. These restriction measures are in place to prevent further spread of the deadly second wave of the coronavirus whose positivity rate currently stands at 14.1 percent with over 781 registered deaths.

The ban on public transport made the available option of cargo boda boda riders too expensive for the refugee business community to afford. Besides, wholesale markets like Kikuubo in downtown Kampala where they used to get their merchandise are also closed and are being guarded by the police.

Before the lockdown, Ms Joyce Nabesa, a mother of five and resident of Massajja in Wakiso district was able to provide for her family.

But she can no longer access raw materials to make liquid soap. The materials are mainly sold in Kampala city centre. She hopes to resume business by borrowing from friends to start her business again after the lockdown. 

“How do you resume business when you do not have any capital? This means you cannot access raw materials. However life has to go on and we thank God that we are alive,” said Ms Nabesa.

A youth experience in the lockdown

Ms Loy Mujinga 23, told Refugee and Migration News last week that her main challenge during the lockdown has been getting food.

“We have challenges of getting food. My mother had a small business that closed down in the lockdown. The government however came in to support us with food last time. We do not know whether they will also give us the money they are planning to give their citizens,” Ms Mujinga said.

When the first lockdown was eased from June to September 2020, Ms Mujinga and her family had hopes of rebuilding their lives. Little did they know that anther lockdown would take them back to square one.

“Life has really changed because we could not go and work. My mother resumed her business and we began eating more. We do not have a lot but we had something to eat. Now another lockdown again!” Ms Mujinga wonders.  

 As families kept home to prevent catching Covid-19, Grace Lumumba from the Democratic Republic of Congo turned this restriction into an opportunity to learn baking cakes from within her house and now she is skilled.

“COVID 19 really was a surprise attack since no one really could tell what to do, we were all experiencing something probably for the first time in our lives. We ended up adapting to different fields like baking plaiting or tailoring to survive”. Said Grace.

She encouraged people to do whatever they can to be self-reliant.

60 year old farmer from DR Congo commonly knwn as Papa John said life wasn’t easy. “I work in Mpigi however I didn’t get to work because there was no transport” said papa John. We received food from the government and Bondeko that kept us going” Papa John

Pastor Moses, a father of three who works as a driving instructor, he notes that COVID 19 came with lots of challenges with many people still stuck with loans and many have lost capital to “my 17 year old daughter was defiled and as I speak, she’s pregnant. Maybe if schools were not shut, that would not have happened” he said regrettably

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