AFRICA/UGANDA – Covid spreads amid vaccine shortages and severe economic repercussions

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Kampala – Uganda is experiencing a second lockdown. After the first full closure in spring 2020, the government ordered a new quarantine. Officially, the health authorities of Kampala declare more than 88 thousand positive cases and more than 2,200 deaths. “The reality is more complex – explains to Fides Dominique Atim Corti, doctor and president of the Corti Foundation, the organization that supports the Lacor Hospital, in the diocese of Gulu, in the north of the country. The Ugandan population is very young and therefore the virus strikes less forcefully. That said, we are seeing cases of children who get sick. Some die. We do not know if they die only from coronavirus or even from other diseases. This confirms that Covid is present and is spreading”. Until a few months ago, ordinary people did not care about the new pathology and labeled it as a Western disease. In recent weeks, however, the situation has changed. “People see elderly parents die, but also some young people – continues Dominique Corti -. They understand that the virus is among them and they are beginning to worry”.
The lockdown is also affecting the economy. Means of transport have been stopped. Only one third of the employees work in offices. Informal commercial activities have been banned. “It is clear that this blocking of activities has profound effect on economic activity – observes Dominique Corti -. People who live off informal businesses find themselves without sources of income. Salaries are often low and it is difficult to support a family. Medicines are not easy to find and they are often expensive. Many sick people give up on treatment so as not to burden their families with debts – continues Dominique Corti -. In homes, contagion is easy. The spaces are cramped and people are forced to live close to each other”. Faced with this pandemic, the health system is struggling. In public hospitals, everything is lacking. Patients need to get medicine, bandages, etc… if they want to be operated.
This does not happen in private hospitals, but the fees are high and inaccessible to ordinary citizens. At Lacor Hospital, the situation is complex. We had to put into operation the systems to produce oxygen in a continuous cycle, which we send only to the Covid ward.
There are also difficulties with drugs”. Vaccines are difficult to find.
After the arrival of a first stock thanks to Covax, Kampala found itself short of vaccines: “The current risk is that the disease spreads massively”, concludes Dominique. “Drug and vaccine resistant variants could emerge.” As a doctor, I can only appeal: Europe and America should send doses of vaccine here. Treating Covid in Africa means preventing its spread to the rest of the world”.