The government has said it will now use mobile money to deliver cash to vulnerable people who are affected by the second Covid-19 lockdown, which began on Friday evening.
In April last year, the government distributed food to the urban poor, mainly in the Kampala metropolitan area, during the first lockdown, but a number of eligible people said they did not receive any.
The distribution was marred by corruption and accountability issues that have not been resolved to date.
Speaking to reporters yesterday in Kampala after a closed-door meeting with members of the national Covid-19 task force, the new prime minister, Ms Robinah Nabbanja, said she would use a different approach during her tenure.
“We agreed to have a direct payment method and a voucher system to provide assistance to vulnerable people [affected by the second lockdown]. This time we will not be giving food. People have phones, we will use mobile money. Those who don’t have a phone, we’ll use the voucher system [to give the relief assistance]”said Ms. Nabbanja.
Highlighting orphanages and slum dwellers, the prime minister said a committee of the National Task Force will meet on Tuesday (tomorrow) to determine how much will be awarded and when people will start receiving support.
In April last year, then Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda said food would be distributed to some 1.4 million vulnerable people in urban areas.
The distribution was carried out at LC1 level and a package of 10kgs of corn flour, 3kgs of beans and packages of salt had to be given to each recipient. According to Dr Rugunda, nursing mothers and patients should be given 2 kg of powdered milk and sugar, respectively.
Asked yesterday about responsibility for donations made during the first lockdown, Ms Nabbanja said the resources had all been allocated to the health ministry.
Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, who was also present at the national task force meeting yesterday, said donations for the Covid-19 response last year were used in the right way.
The government received donations from supporters and private companies in terms of food, vehicles and money.
âThe donated vehicles were allocated to the districts. The cash donations, which amounted to Shs 29 billion, were paid into the Consolidated Fund and it had to go through all public finance and management procedures. [of the Finance Ministry]”said Dr Aceng.
“Corn [all] the money was handed over to the health ministry last week. From this Shs29b money, Shs23b is intended for the purchase of 282 pickup trucks, as was the President’s original intention. Vehicles will be handed over to districts for [disease] surveillance and other activities, âshe added.
The vehicles have been ordered and will be paid for next week, according to the minister.
âA total of Shs3.5b has been allocated for the construction of blood banks in Soroti and Arua,â she said, adding that the other money had been allocated for the construction of health facilities in Malaba and in others and that the work was already in progress.
Regarding the second wave crisis, Dr Aceng said they were taking swift action to reverse the trend.
“We also asked for a supplement [budget] to solve the oxygen problem in the country and that there is a plan to bring in more oxygen cylinders, âshe said, without disclosing the amount.
Several hospitals do not have enough cylinders for the growing number of Covid-19 patients as the second wave of the virus sweeps the country.
Up to 1,026 Covid-19 patients are currently admitted to hospitals. The government yesterday reported 1,367 new infections and 34 new deaths for June 18, bringing the cumulative total of infections to 71,543 and deaths to 660.
Ms Nabbanja called on local governments to use available resources to reactivate community Covid-19 task forces to strengthen the fight.