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How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Affected Our Patients' Access to Food

This has been written by one of our social workers who is currently in the field:

Family is at the forefront of patient care, and RHHJ tries to train and give guidance to our patients' caretakers and families as much as possible. At the beginning of 2020, our minds were focused on our patients and their families by managing our patients' physical pains and relieving their psychosocial distresses. Some of our patients and their families are in great need of support, especially where the main 'bread winner' is either the one who is sick or elderly, and they cannot afford even basic meals. Therefore, we find it necessary to support the most disadvantaged families with monthly food rations. Besides removing the pressure on the family of how they might access food for survival, this food support also boosts our patients' immunity and increases their adherence to medication.

Usually, RHHJ supports 110 patients with food, which includes: 3kgs of rice, 2kgs of beans, a bar of soap, a kilogram of sugar and 2kgs of nutritious porridge. A typical monthly food support basket costs between UGX 36,100 ($9.51 / €8.78 / DKK 65.50) and UGX 41,600 ($10.96 / €10.12 / DKK 75.48) depending on the price in the market.

RHHJ currently cares for 620 total patients. The majority of those patients are not on food support, as they have been assessed to have some means and capacity to feed themselves and their families. However, the majority of these cases are right on the edge, and if our budget allowed, we would likely be supporting them with at least a small amount of food to help them. This fragile situation has now been aggravated by the difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 20th March 2020, Uganda instituted measures aimed at controlling the spread of the corona virus. These culminated in a lock-down on the 30th of March and a night curfew, initially for one month but which has since been extended – and which is likely to be further extended into June and beyond. As expected, most low income households (which covers almost every single one of our patients) have lost even the little income they used to earn. These households are living meal to meal most days, and obviously do not have any savings to fall back on. This is a widespread phenomenon which has equally affected their survival networks. This has left our patients basically starving!

While the government of Uganda has put into place a food support program targeting about 1.5 million of the most disadvantaged people in Uganda, this effort has not and will not reach the vast majority of our patients. This is because most of the government food support is targeting urban slum dwellers in big concentrations in the capital and municipalities, but most of our patients live outside of these areas in the most rural parts of the country. We badly need to expand our food support to cover virtually all 620 of our patients.

Please, if you can donate anything at all to help us support our patients, many of whom are more at risk of starving to death than of getting COVID-19, we would be so, so appreciative.

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