The government has a constitutional obligation to establish national food reserves under Objective XXII (b) of the 1995 constitution. This duty helps to guarantee food security, mitigates hunger, prevents malnutrition and ensures that everyone enjoys the right to livelihood. COVID 19 pandemic has worsened malnutrition and related deaths in Uganda. Food reserves would have therefore been a critical tool in realising food security especially in times of unforeseen economic hardships or natural calamities like the COVID 19 pandemic.
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
The CEFROHT and SEATINI are Non-Government Organizations bringing this public interest cause on behalf of female employees in commercial investment schemes.
The Government of Uganda is currently implementing a public-private partnership with vegetable oil development projects in partnership with BIDCO and WILMAR as Oil Palm Uganda Limited (OPUL) among other commercial investment schemes in Uganda in several sectors to which Uganda has signed a number of bilateral investment treaties.
The Investment Code Act, 2019, which is the principal law regulating investment schemes does not provide for a requirement to conduct Human Rights Impact assessments by investors prior to and during the implementation of investment projects. The Occupation Health and Safety Act put an obligation on the employer to provide protective gear but this has not been implementing in some workplaces. Uganda has signed a number of Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), 6 of which. The treaties focus on protecting the rights of investors at the expense of citizens. As such, investors have not been held accountable for the acts of violating the rights of workers.
Our interactions with the present and former workers in investment schemes, revealed that workers are not given adequate food, many times go all day doing hard labor but without a meal, those that are given some food like posho and beans reported that this food is rotten most times and unsafe for human consumption, women were found to be adversely affected by the lack of appropriate personal protective gears which exposes them to chemicals that burn and irritate their skin and nose, very low wages as low as 4,400 Uganda shillings per week; very heavy workload involving carrying up to 1,200 kilograms of load a day; denial of paid maternity and annual leave.
The COVID 19 pandemic is wreaking havoc across the globe. The crisis is detrimentally affecting all civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and developmental rights. In Uganda, the government put up measures to prevent the spread of this virus and one of the key elements was a lockdown to control congestion in public places and temporary closing some offices and businesses.
Many people have bought and are keeping food to take them and their families through this pandemic. They buy food with long shelf life from shops. It should be noted that there is no mechanism of tracing for food in Uganda.
Government has also adopted the centralized mechanism of distributing food to the vulnerable population in the districts of Wakiso and Kampala which comprise of many urban dwellers that depend on a daily income to survive.
In a bid to support this effort and to assist this good cause, many corporate bodies, industries, companies and individuals offered food items to the National Task Force majorly consisting of maize flour and beans.
Did you know that you have a constitutional right to demand and defend your social economic rights?
Jorina House Gayaza
(+256) 393 225468