President Yoweri Museveni has given religious denominations the green light to start distributing food to vulnerable people, provided they work with the COVID taskforce at the district level and also respect to Standard Operating Procedures issued by the Health Ministry.
A statement from the State House indicates that the President reached the decision after a meeting religious leaders under their umbrella body the Inter Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) at State House Entebbe.
The decision has been welcomed by muslim leaders who’ve been calling for relaxation of tight quarantine measures that prevented them from distributing food to people especially during the ongoing month of Ramathan when better-off muslims are required to donate food to the needy to enable them break their fast.
Sheikh Mahmood Kibaate, the Deputy Mufti of Uganda and one of the principles at the House of Zaka and Waqf, appealed to the President before the start of the month of Ramathan to allow them to give vulnerable people some food. Sheikh Kibaate told the media that House of Zaka had substantial amounts of food to give out to needy people, but had feared to breach the quarantine restrictions.
But even with the relaxation in the restrictions, President Museveni has asked religious leaders not to segregate between faiths as they donate food.
The statement further notes that Museveni asked religious leaders to take food only to the needy, and thereby avoid perpetrating dependence if they give food to people who can afford to feed themselves.
“We don’t want to make people so lame by becoming dependent on food handouts. I need to agree with you on the strict definition of who should give you food. Even when you are bringing up children, they should never be an idea of free things. Some people are mixing this with poverty eradication, which is wrong. Medicine for poverty has other bigger programs like wealth creation,” he said.
On how to distribute the food, Museveni advised that they should do this using the inter-denominational approach which focused on everybody and that would help prevent them from distributing food in groups.
Mufti Sheikh Mubajje Ramadhan, appreciated President Museveni for being transparent to the public about the pandemic situation, adding that this has made the people build more trust in his leadership and the government.
The relaxation in the President’s stance on food distribution is the earliest visible sign yet that the government is about to relax the quarantine measures that were imposed since March 18 with the closing of schools to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Although largely painful, the quarantine measures have been the key to Uganda’s success in keeping COVID-19 under 100 cases, behind Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. By the time of posting this article, Uganda had just 83 cases with no deaths due to COVID-19. Also majority of the patients have recovered and have been discharged.