A group of vendors in Kame valley market in Mukono district has shunned the proposal to sleep at their workplace as part of the COVID-19 containment measures, saying it is likely to accelerate family breakups.
Despite repeated threats by Mukono Resident District Commissioner, Fatumah Ndisaba to close the market because of failure to comply with the presidential directive to stay in the market over the lockdown period, a number of vendors especially women say that they cannot risk implementing the directive, which they say split many families during the first lockdown.
While announcing the second lockdown, President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni advised market vendors to spend the 42 days of the lockdown in markets to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19 as they move to and from the market to their homes. He directed the Ministry of Health to provide them with mosquito nets as protection from malaria-causing mosquitoes.
Racheal Namuddu noted that it took over three months for the family elders to convince her husband to return home after abandoning her together with their three children claiming that she was cheating on him under the guise of sleeping at her workplace. According to Namuddu, she agreed with her husband to commute from home despite the restrictions by the government.
Tracy Kabagenyi, another vendor in the market and Village Health Team (VHT) member, said besides family splits, the market lacks enough security, electricity and water, which contribute to poor hygiene and sanitation. She also says that despite neighbouring a swamp, the Health Ministry has never provided them mosquito nets.
Geoffrey Sserunjogi, the Kame Valley Market Chairperson, said that after the first lockdown he tried to assist over 20 families to reconcile. He revealed that up to over 10 families are still divided. He observed that women are the most affected after being abandoned by their husbands and have now become single parents.
“Vendors chose to leave work early enough so as to beat curfew hours in the evening other than stay here for the night. As the market management, we have advised them to be cautious especially after reaching home to avoid risks of spreading the disease,” Sserunjogi noted.
The RDC Ndisaba said that vendors at Kame have not only declined to sleep in the market but also ignored the Standard Operating Procedures such as maintaining physical distance and wearing facemasks. She noted that non-compliance at the market is likely to force the COVID-19 task force to make a decision that may affect their work.
Kame Valley serves as the main market for Mukono district accommodating over 3000 stalls selling various agricultural produce. It feeds the rest of the small markets in the district with produce.
Two bars operate between the Poultry and Fisheries sections as several vendors converge in groups to play cards.
The entire market has only four handwashing points at the entrance. Ndisaba said that he has advised the market leadership to install handwashing points close to the stalls and always wash hands after touching money.