COVID Chronicles I: Lockdown Uganda

2nd April 2020
At the beginning of COVID lockdown in late March 2020, Evan Davies on BBC Radio 4's PM news program asked listeners to write their own personal accounts of their lockdown experience in c400 words.  Over the following weeks, many of these  "COVID Chronicles" were read out on air, presenting a very UK-centric view of lockdown. 
On Monday 30th March, President Museveni imposed lockdown in Uganda. Below is the text of an email sent by Janet Johnston to all NOTDEC supporters on 2nd April 2020 describing the impact of lockdown in Western Uganda.   To balance the BBC's coverage, the text was also sent to Evan Davies.

Lockdown Uganda

If you ’re wondering whether you should lock yourself in the wardrobe to escape the attention of Derbyshire Police, you might like to consider the plight of our friends in Uganda.

Museveni was Troubled … and all Uganda with him

Even before Uganda ’s first confirmed case, President Museveni announced 14-day mandatory quarantine for all international arrivals.  Coronavirus arrived – first with passengers from Dubai, some of whom escaped quarantine – and the genie was out of the bottle.

A welter of announcements and misinterpretations followed. 

  • No flights into or out of Uganda
  • No gatherings of more than 5 people
  • Schools & colleges closed
  • No public transport even boda-boda motor bikes
  • No use of personal vehicles
  • No markets or roadside vendors
  • No one to go to hospital for any reason!

Despite the turmoil, so far there are just 44 confirmed cases.

A Child-Centred View

The NOTDEC Children ’s Centre is in lockdown.  Everyone is very frightened: as Christians, many see coronavirus as God ’s judgement. Most staff have left to be with their families.  Anyone who leaves is not allowed to return.

Social Worker Edson in charge, living on site with one farm worker, a driver and the housemothers.  At lockdown, two house-mothers were off-site, leaving 12 (plus older NOTDEC girls Sandra & Esther) to look after the 60 children – mainly babies and toddlers.  Older NOTDEC kids mostly live in the community with their wider family but now cannot go to school.

Keeping Calm – and Planning On

Accountant and current Acting Director, Annah, is off site.  But she has a plan. 

  • She ’s sent Social Worker Barbra on site.  After 14 days quarantine there, Barbra will relieve Edson – freeing him to join his family.
  • Though there’s two months’ food on site, NOTDEC now needs a special permit to allow the tractor off site to haul in river water and milk.  Annah has just sorted it!
  • However, the water filter is broken and the replacement from Australia will be delayed by flight restrictions.  So all drinking water must now be boiled – and firewood becomes a key resource.
  • And how on earth will Annah manage to feed NOTDEC children living off site with extended family?  They normally eat at school.  With schools closed, their families will have huge difficulty feeding them and their other kids.

We ’re bored and can ’t go walking in Derbyshire – and we think we’ve got problems!

If you are able please pray for NOTDEC ’s children and their families, for the staff looking after them, and for Annah as she strives to do her very best for the children in challenging times.

Best wishes to you all at this difficult time,