Home Regional & Int'l Desperate times in Uganda lead to spike in suicides

Desperate times in Uganda lead to spike in suicides

By Hannah Rugema

Desperate Ugandan, Fred Walugembe set himself on fire inside Masaka Police Station.

The COVID-19 death toll in Uganda is significantly higher than being communicated, with cases of suicide directly linked to the pandemic in Uganda also increasing, according to experts.

Even institutions like Uganda Police cannot hide the evidence any more, people note. According to the force’s deputy spokesperson, ACP Polly Namaye, suicide cases have spiked by a 22.7 percent increase. Desperate Ugandans attribute this to “severe increase in poverty.” According to many in the Ugandan capital, security forces have made matters worse “with indiscriminately violent enforcement of Covid-19 measures.”

It is widely reported that Uganda Police, LDUs, and UPDF have often used Covid-19 measures as a pretext to beat up traders, market vendors, and others and robbing them of merchandise and money. “It is really bad!” said a resident of Kampala that did not give his name. “Traders have to work; can’t the security men properly enforce social distancing, or curfew hours in an orderly way?

“But through their violence they have contributed to more poverty and desperation in Uganda!” remarked our source.

There have been incidents when individuals have set themselves on fire. On the Third of last month, 29-year old Fred Walugembe set himself on fire inside Masaka Police Station. It was reported that Walugembe committed suicide after policemen demanded a bribe to release his motorbike – which was his means of earning a livelihood. “They violently seized Walugembe’s boda on pretext of fighting Covid-19, but he had no money to give them,” a friend of his told the Ugandan media.

According to the World Bank Covid-19 will worsen the effects of poverty in Uganda, with an estimated three million expected to fall into poverty particularly in urban areas. This, says the World Bank, is above the estimated 8.7 million in the previous fiscal year. A Kampala source said that the current figure will put the total number of poor Ugandans facing life threatening poverty as high as eleven million or more.

“Sadly, this is the result of cosmetic measures! No real measures was taken by the government to mitigate the impact on ordinary citizens, and now people are dying,” a Ugandan economist said. A number of commentators have pointed to the fact people were promised things that weren’t delivered. “Even food relief was not delivered, leave alone relief from bank loans and so on,” decried a trader of Nakasero Market that identified herself only as Nalumansi.

Read: Police Report: Suicide Cases Increase by 22% to 275 Compared to 224 in 2019

A recent UN social-economic analysis of the Covid-19 impact in Uganda indicated that 60 per cent of informal enterprises had stopped their operations or moved below the poverty level denying income to between five to six million informal workers.

Big numbers of fathers and mothers in Uganda have been captured on video demanding that the government “take their children since they no longer have the means to feed them.”

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