Mbarara Haunted By FMD and Lockdown

MBARARA – As many people continue feasting on fresh meat, residents of Mbarara City are involuntarily abstaining from meat following the ban on sale over Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) that has paralyzed the cattle corridor in the districts of Lyantonde, Kiruhura, Mbarara, Bushenyi among others.

Dr Nabaasa Robinson, the In-charge of veterinary services in Mbarara City confirmed that the slaughter and sale of meat was banned in the city for 14 days as per temporary measures to contain FMD spread in the cattle corridor.

“We were not all that sick of FMD but because we are the biggest animal market in the region, we had an obligation to protect our neighbors since all those animals slaughtered come from infected areas. Also, to evaluate and reorganize our operations so that we don’t risk other districts,” Nabaasa emphasized.

The meat ban left people in Mbarara City with no other option but to survive on alternative sauces like greens and birds. The prices for greens and birds have since then increased due to increased demands.

“I used to buy fish at Shs 10,000 but now it is Shs 20,000 if you cross to chicken; it’s no longer Shs 30,000 it now goes for Shs 45,000 because there is no more meat at the butcheries” Gilbert Mwesigye, a city dweller decried.

However, poultry farming in Mbarara City and the neighboring districts, the cost of a tray of eggs dropped from Shs 15,000 to Shs 7,000; while a bunch of bananas dropped from Shs 10,000 to Shs 1,000-2,000 depending on its size.

Nimusiima Stephen, the Chairman Rufuura Abattoir says, meat business is no longer normal as it was before Covid19.

“We used to slaughter more than 40 animals a day but currently we slaughter only about 10 animals and even buyers themselves come crying of debts because they will tell you that their businesses are all stuck. Farmers have also used this chance to increase the animal prices” Nimusiima explains.

The 14-day ban ended on Monday and new guidelines have been raised for abattoirs and butcheries to operate normally.

“After the 14-day ban we evaluated ourselves and developed new guidelines on how to operate though some routes were closed and their animals can’t cross to our city especially animals from Kiruhura, Isingiro and Rubaya” says Nabaasa.

“No health certificate, no animal entry into our abattoir and you have to bring animals for slaughter not to stock including observation of Covid19 Standard Operating Procedures [SOPs] because such abattoirs are big factories so we need to ensure that our people remain safe,” he added.

Nabaasa says the resumption of slaughtering animals in Mbarara City doesn’t interfere with the presidential guidelines on closing the weekly cattle markets for 42 days.

“With the presidential directives, he stopped cattle and weekly markets but farmers are allowed to sell direct from their farms. We also have loading sites like those in Kiruhura as he emphasized that agricultural activities should continue” Nabaasa retaliates.

He, however, says the city zone still has a few sick animals in Rwenjueru bordering Kiruhura, Rukindo in Nyakayojo urging traders to observe Covid19 SOPs to avoid risks of total lockdown.

Away from food stuffs, drivers and bus owners are lamenting after the president re-directed closure of every movement of motor vehicles and cycles except for those carrying cargo.

Njoma Aesi, a bus driver at Global Buses says that the business environment has become so harsh that most of the people in the transport sector have returned to their villages for survival.

“Most of our colleagues have gone to the villages while others are wondering in town because they have no alternative job. Remember our children were also sent from school even after paying school dues so the conditions are not good” Njoma explained.

He appealed to the government to at least ease the lockdown such that public transport business can resume.

“I think the government would have eased the lockdown and put some strict measures enabling us to continue working rather than shutting us down” Njoma said

Kihembo Anthony, the General Manager Global buses says the transport ban risks damaging their vehicles and will need repairs.

“Last year we parked almost for a year, but we were forced to do mechanical repairs. The fact that buses are not moving, most parts are vulnerable to breaking down. We purchased some of these buses on loan meaning that parking them, they will not be making money, yet we have to clear the bank loans” Kihembo lamented.

He advised the government to always consult business stakeholders rather than just enforcing strict guidelines.

“Before such measures are put in place, let the government first consult people with experience for guidance but if you take such harsh decisions then they continue to haunt us in the private business”

However, Lt Col. Mwesigye James, the Resident City Commissioner (RCC) Mbarara vowed to implement all directives to save people from massive death.

“People must remain where they are, if you have nothing important to do in town why don’t you stay at home. Those who had come to the markets in big numbers, we have dispersed them, and we are trying so hard to make sure that curfew is implemented” explained Mwesigye.

Our reporter made a close survey in the bus park and all bus offices were locked meaning that no transport business is going on but for boda-bodas, they are continuously seen carrying passengers in and outside Mbarara City.

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