Hunger pandemic awaits – so lets us grow food during COVID-19

 

The writer, Morris Komakech

The reason we fear COVID-19 is we fear to die. However, some situations and conditions are causing death while we run away from COVID-19-related deaths. Deaths and human sufferings have no preferred causes. If we have decided to fear COVID-19-related death, we should also protect our population from other causes of preventable deaths and anguish, including hunger and starvation.

In a few more weeks to come, the level of frustration from parents failing to feed and treat their children under this COVID-19 regime will climax. The national COVID-19 Response teams should not only focus on the containment aspect of COVID-19, but develop and implement plans to treat the sick, and ensure undisrupted food production. Evidence shows that good and regular nutrition is effective in fighting COVID-19 and all diseases.

The patterns of government’s food distribution are already showing signs of a significant pending famine that may kill more than COVID-19. In Northern Uganda, parents of children with nodding disease are starving. If you wish to understand the impact of nurturing children with nodding disease, just go to Omoro district and see for yourself.

But who cares for these wretched souls? All they care about is the vulnerable urban poor in Kampala and Wakiso!

Last week, a friend reached out to me for help. His family has been confined to a village where there are hardly any amenities left. The gentleman has a motorbike, but only he can ride to the garden, 6km away. He cannot transport his family members on his motorbike or mobilize villagers to come to support his farming activities. He has run out of food and medicines for his aging parents and children who may die anyway.

I read somewhere that the government is transporting people from Busoga to Lamwo district to teach locals there how to grow sugarcanes[Editor’s Note: The transportation was halted]. If such people could assemble in the field, why is it so difficult to ease the countryside to farm?

The UN Fund for Agriculture (FAO) has sounded the alarm bell for global famine, predicting severe food shortages. The COVID-19 containment measures have a profound impact on the entire system of food production and must not be taken lightly.

Farmers could still adapt physical distancing while farming, say for at least five hours a day three times a week. Their movement to the farms could be coordinated within a specific window of time, say between 5 am -11 am or a shorter shift of 4 – 8 pm so that farmers could harness the rains to grow food, and the dry period for harvesting to make food available in the markets.

In Uganda, the patterns of COVID-19 community spread is predicted with precision. Of recent, most of the cases are resulting from our lackadaisical handling of Truck drivers from source countries like Tanzania Kenya. Once this problem is sorted out, the Farmers could be eased into activities.

Once we contain truck drivers and people moving from country to country, we shall have a more definitive control over community transmission COVID-19. Rwanda, for instance, has embarked on mass testing of its citizens, owing to its small population. We could adopt this method for farming communities. Farmers in remote villages separated from contact with the outside world should be given farming privileges to avert a severe food shortage.

Lastly, let the Office of the Prime Minister scale the food distribution or unconditional cash transfers to every part of Uganda. People are trapping rats and mice for a meal because they have run out of food. The Coronavirus emerged precisely because of these crazy consumption patterns that promote zoonosis. Let’s prevent eating snakes, cats, rats, and bats.

Mr. Komakech is a social policy analyst and a public health authority. Can be reached at mordust_26@yahoo.ca