COVID-19 and Its Effect on Access to Basic Needs, Essential Services and Livelihoods

Traditionally, basic needs consisted of food, water, shelter and clothing. However, the modern age emphasizes the quality of these needs and enhances it by including sanitation, education, healthcare and the internet. In the wake of COVID-19, there have been products or services referred to as “essential” services. These are absolute necessities meant to improve the quality of life, without which, one’s life could be significantly compromised.

On 31st March 2020, a 14-day nationwide lockdown was declared in a bid to curb the spread of the novel corona virus. Prior to this, President Museveni had issued an instruction closing all border points with the exception of cargo ferrying transportation. This directive instructed everyone to stay at home with the exception of  people working in sectors considered as “essential services”, namely: agriculture value chain establishments, door-to-door deliveries, power, water and telecommunication utility companies, media houses, financial services, private security companies, garbage collection services, fire brigade, fuel stations, funeral services, Kampala Capital City Authority, Judiciary, Uganda Revenue Authority and Uganda National Roads Authority.

However, following the restrictions enforcing Social Distancing, the two key challenges have been:

  • Insufficient capacity and limited resources within various institutions to ensure that the health and welfare of the people is sustained through either provision or accessibility of the necessary goods and services,
  • Lack of income or insufficient purchasing power.

Different case scenarios are as follows:

  • News of pregnant women, mothers or very sick people, being unable to secure safe and quick means of transportation to allow movement to and from their homes and the nearest health facilities. This has resulted in either aggravated complications leading to higher medical costs or in some instances has led to death.
  • Many people who lack easy access to food either due to long distances between their residences and the food market or lack money to buy the food as their source of income has been discontinued. In order to cater for the vulnerable communities amidst this lock-down, a relief food distribution initiative was started on April 4 2020 targeting about 1.5 million urban poor folks. However, the question now would be what will happen when it runs out?
  • Another scenario is in the rural or peri-urban settings where access to clean and sufficient water is needed now more than ever for frequent sanitation through hand washing practices thus increasing the demand of an already scarce commodity.

As food for thought: How might we make the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic sustainable while taking into account all the measures stipulated by the Ministry of Health?