YOLRED Provides Critical Supplies to Families Struggling to Survive COVID-19

By Douglas Olum
YOLRED Volunteer

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Uganda in late March, most people who live from hand-to-mouth, saw their lives crumble as their businesses were closed and sources of livelihoods shut. According to the Youth Leaders for Restoration and Development (YOLRED) Program Director, Geoffrey Omony, a survey done by the organization early this July, and targeted at assessing the impacts of the pandemic on the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) survivors, revealed that many families were sleeping on empty tummies because they did not have food.

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“Life has been really tough because the lockdown was sudden and the little food we had in the house could not sustain us for long,” Lilly Atong, one of the YOLRED's beneficiaries said in an interview, “The lockdown found me with ten children in the house yet I had no way to get money or food. The beads I made were not selling because my customers who are majorly foreigners coming to visit the country were no longer coming.”

Atong said even when she had just newly acquired additional skills in modern catering, she could neither establish a business because she did not have the capital, nor find employment since hotels were closed.

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The Government of Uganda announced a lockdown in the country on March 23 where public transport, non-food businesses, places of worship and all forms of public gatherings were banned. A few days later, even private cars were banned from the roads and motorcycle riders were instructed to carry only luggage and no passengers as people were being encouraged to stay at home in a bid to curb the spread of the noble coronavirus disease.

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To Jennifer Acan, a single mother of five, living with a disability following the amputation of her left leg, the sudden lockdown coupled with her disability, was disastrous.

“We would go on empty stomach for several consecutive days,” Acan said, “Sometimes I would send the children to look for some wild plants so that we could boil and take.”

But following the survey, YOLRED on Thursday, July 30, distributed emergency relief food, sanitary and educational materials worth over eight million Uganda shillings (about US$2,200) to at least one hundred of such starving families. The items included; 15 kilograms of maize flour, 10 kilograms of beans, packets of salt, two bars of soap, two pieces of cloth face masks and self-learning materials for their children.

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“I am so glad that YOLRED thought of doing this for us,” Acan said, “At least I am sure that today I am going to eat and get satisfied. I thank YOLRED so much for standing with us. They are supporting our children in school and now doing for us this; we cannot thank them enough.”

To Kenneth Oyet, the food relief was a huge save from embarrassment, especially of a father being unable to feed his family.

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“I watched with deep pain and embarrassment whenever my children would cry of hunger,” Oyet said, “Taking home these items will make me a man and father again. I would like to thank YOLRED and the people sponsoring it so much for caring about us.”

The food distribution was conducted at the YOLRED headquarters in Gulu, and witnessed by representatives from the Gulu District COVID-19 taskforce.

While addressing the beneficiaries, Felix Olanya, who led the two-man team from the taskforce, appreciated YOLRED for joining the Government of Uganda in supporting vulnerable groups within Uganda. He said, while the Government would have wished to serve everyone, its capacity was limited that was why groups like the LRA survivors did not get food relief.

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Mr. Omony, said that, while they found overwhelming need from the general community, he was happy that YOLRED was able to provide those items to their beneficiaries.

As of July 30, Uganda had registered at least 1, 147 cases of COVID-19 infections and two deaths. But there is fear for a speedy spike in the number of cases and deaths as private and public transport return to the roads, businesses get opened and more people travel across the country.

In a special way, YOLRED and team would want to thank the team Goldin Institute and Carlotta Ludovica Passerini for supporting the LRA former child soldiers with life necessities and sanitary during this difficult time. Your support has been a lifesaving to our beneficiaries.

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