The lock down in Gulu is being eased slowly. Public transport started up again on June 4, shops have reopened and Government is enforcing the use of face masks in public. The World Health Authority reported 808 Corona virus cases in Uganda on 12 June, but no death has been registered so far. As Ojok Patrick Co-ordinator of Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) says: “still not as bad as we hear in your case and other countries”.
However, Gulu hospital has about 65 Corona cases, mainly truck drivers from neighbouring countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Eritrea, Somali and DRC. There are very few subsequent cases yet in people who had contact with them. The infection is certainly increasing in other parts of Africa, we can only hope that Uganda has done enough to be spared.
Schools are scheduled to open from the beginning of July. The Government plan is to organise testing machines for all schools so that students all get tested right at the start, and this testing should continue after every two weeks. Everyone hopes it works out well.
Life is getting back to normal again in Gulu, though with lots of hardship as many have lost their jobs because of the lock down. Ojok Patrick: “That is the situation here and hopefully, if infection doesn’t increase, we are sure most public places will open including schools.”
In particular, the gaps in generator repair at Koch Goma and the pre-vocational skills training in Acet for the deaf. (Please see this post for the background to the extra training).
Emma and Faruk (the project officers) are doing the groundwork to make it successful and safe. They shall provide the members taking part with face masks and hand sanitizers. The masks are made by Mama Cave and the Gulu Disabled Person Knitting Workshop based at GDPU. For the great work under the new ‘Mama Masks’ name and other initiatives please see this post: Pushing on well: new initiatives after Lockdown at GDPU
In Acet, they will use the same sign language interpreter, a teacher at Laroo primary school, that we used before. She will be riding her personal motorbike to reach Acet twice a week, so that she doesn’t have to use public transport. Emma consulted with Lillan, the leader of Nyeko Rach hairdressing group in Acet, who agreed that the number of members is small enough for the training to take place.
The steps made by this group of deaf students have really begun to change their lives for the better. This last round of training is to prepare them for vocational training, so that they can learn new skills and earn a proper living for themselves; good luck to all involved.
The level of Corona Virus infection in Gulu is, so far, low compared for example to the UK. The World Health Authority reported a total of 808 Corona virus cases in Uganda on 12 June,and 60-70 in Gulu itself and apparently no deaths. But, the lockdown has caused severe hardship for those who had no safety net to begin with: total loss of income; serious food shortages and high price rises.
Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) is working very hard to ensure that their beneficiaries are not badly hit by the related effects of COVID-19.
Advocacy Project and ‘Mama Mask’
GDPU together with The Advocacy Project have started an initiative called MAMA MASK. As Faruk the GDPU Guidance Counsellor and ETC@GDPU Project Officer says: “It is a contribution from the disability family, more especially from our women, as a way to respond to COVID-19”.
The Advocacy Project donated $800 towards production of 4500 face masks to be sold at a cost of 2000 Ugandan Shillings between June and September. The profit from the masks sold will support GDPU activities and utility bills, and pay the women for the work done. Mama Cave, the Sweater Weaving Instructor for the ETC@GDPU project, is working with the team at Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop to produce the masks:
They have so far produced 800 face masks, and all are marked with the GDPU logo.
They have sold 100+ face mask at the moment.
Two organisations of students from Gulu who are studying abroad, Gulu Development and Friends of Gulu, came together to support people with disabilities in the Acholi Sub-region, Gulu and Kitgum District. They have so far supported 200 people with disabilities in Gulu Municipality alone. They distributed 5kg of beans, bars of soap, 10kg of Maize flour and salt.
GDPU mobilized the most vulnerable people with disabilities in the community, the food relief was channelled through Gulu District task force. And of course, they ensured that everyone maintained a social distance of 2-4 metres and everyone was able to wash their hands with soap.
GDPU’s NEXT PLAN: Soap
Over 500 women with disabilities in Gulu and the surrounding districts, working in the informal sector, have been affected by the lockdown. In such crises you rely on your family, but commonly, women with disabilities are not supported by their relatives, parents and friends because of attitudes, discrimination and stigma. The government and well-wishers are giving some food relief, and they are very grateful but it is not sustainable and these women want to work for themselves.
GDPU have developed a concept to increase income to vulnerable women with disabilities who are badly affected by COVID-19 government lockdown measures. GDPU are fundraising from friends, well-wishers and development agencies to train 40 women with disabilities in the production of soap and liquid soap to boost their income; there is a high demand for these products now and in the future.
Musema Faruk, GDPU Guidance Counsellor: “There is a saying in our community, when you empower a woman you empower a whole community. A productive woman will help feed a family of 5-10 people; strong and healthy families make strong and healthy communities and all will contribute to social well-being.”
GDPU want to target women and girls with disabilities whose businesses were affected by COVID- 19 lock down measures. Their proposed project seeks to create self-employment to tackle the unemployment which is so deeply rooted in our communities.
They plan to train 40 girls and women with disabilities from four districts of Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro, because they are the most vulnerable and deeply affected by the lock down. The 40 women will be trained as trainers of trainers in soap making; liquid soap production so that they can go back to their respective districts and villages to train others to start producing soap, liquid soap or face masks.
They will sell those items at lowest cost to their community, compared to existing products on the market. The profit they get will help them with the basic needs such food and medical treatments etc
Summary of GDPU Soap Making Project proposal:
40 women with disabilities trained in making soaps, liquid soap and protective face masks.
The 40 women are trained to train other women with disabilities in the skills they have received. GDPU anticipate that each trainer will be in position to train at least 5 other women; the approach is a snow ball method.
Certificate of completion awarded to 40 women with disabilities.
Increased income level for our women with disabilities with their households.
Improved level of living for our women with disabilities
Reduced level of domestic violence.
Reduced stigma and discrimination
Strengthen the community
If you want to help GDPU in this proposal or want to find out more, here are the contact details:
ETC of PWD can also pass on any donations you might want to make through our Donations Page, just make the cause clear in the comment section in the donation process. Or you can contact ETC of PWD via our contacts page if you prefer.
We have been in contact with Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) during the lockdown. Although GDPU has been closed for most of the time, it is now starting to reopen. What follows is from the emails and messages we have had from them so far.
As Ojok Patrick GDPU co-ordinator said at the start: “The time is extremely strange as we wake up everyday and you see news of people dying in large number because of the strange diseases that has attacked the world. We are all indeed trying to keep ourselves safe by staying home and not allowing neighbours and relatives to visit. Our experience with Ebola, which affected Gulu more than any part of Uganda, makes us more alert than any part of Uganda.
Some effects of the lockdown for them:
Prices of essential commodities are extremely high, partly due to supply problems and partly due to the usual profiteering.
In Gulu the government distributed food to those who only earn from hand to mouth and the most vulnerable, once. Well-wishers are also supporting people. The government advised people to go back to their villages because giving food stuffs is not the solution but farming can also help
The Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Group have been making masks, taught by their teacher Mama Cave, and selling them in town. It is from such entrepreneurship that people survive.
We hope to have more news of how the other ETC@GDPU business groups are doing as soon as it comes in.
As Faruk, the GDPU Guidance Counsellor and ETC @GDPU Project Officer said recently: “The government of Uganda is planning to ease the lock down starting on the 26th of this month, businesses will open, transport will be allowed with half of the capacity, school will open on the 4th of June with only finalist or candidates are expected to resume. But we are all fairing with no salaries, it’s not easy for now, hopefully if business comes back to normal then will be fine.”