Life at Port Bell amidst the pandemic: Incomes shuttered, most youths risk loss of jobs
Written by Derrick Asaba on September 1, 2021
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic existence, life was normal across almost every business zone but since its declaration, wails have been a characteristic of many players in different sectors.
At Port Bell in Luzira, a number of youths center here every day so that they can have something to enlarge their bellies and also provide for other basic necessities of life.
Initially, it was never a case of hustling for work to do amongst the young men there but apparently, everyone eyes the number of available work to do which has been, and is a huge blow in the faces of many youths.
On a good day, one could walk back home with at least between UGX 30,000 and UGX 50,000 earned from his sweat on a range of activities done at Port Bell.
It’s no longer the same story; every day is not a bright day for these youths as they at times get little money that can only enable them have food or stay without work other times.
Abdallah Salaka, the Kachanga Foundation Group (KFG) Spokesperson says that this has been largely caused by the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic which saw most supporting sectors closed.
“Initially, our employer would sell sand to construction companies, schools in large quantities. Currently, it is only individuals that come to buy. We used to come and only our energy discouraged us from working because work to do was in plenty,” Salaka said.
A young gentleman only Identified as Brian is a vocational student at St. Jonas, Njeru but stays around Port Bell.
Brian, who prepares fish before sale by removing gills, told Record FM that since COVID-19 came, incomes have been affected and customers no longer come like they used to.
He added that even the few customers who come want to buy fish and other merchandise cheaply. This in turn affected his affordability of the school tutelage.
“I could go to school and whenever the semester ended, I would come and work. At the end of the holiday, I could be ready with half of the tuition when school resumed. With this situation, things turned tail,” said Brian.
Also, a young lady who works as a cook at the site but preferred anonymity, said that the reduction in customers has affected their employment equally putting their earnings at stake.
According to Salaka, mass vaccination against COVID-19 would act as an overriding determinant of a general opening up of sectors that would in turn simmer down the situation.
“I implore the government to vaccinate every Ugandan so that people can go back to their work. For instance if schools are opened, school authorities will want to expand and renovate buildings which require sand thereby creating employment for the youths here,” Salaka said.
Some of the activities youths do but under an established body (KFG), is sand offloading from small ferries, loading on motor truck vehicles, sieving out unwanted material from sand among others.
The sand selling project is owned by a businessman, George Ssiryegana, which sand is obtained from Buleebi Island and ferried to Port Bell.
In a way to counter unnecessary expenses and stand ready before disaster, the KFG was started in 2018 and currently has a subscription of over 60 bodied-youths.
Patrick Kasoma, the KFG chairman says that they started up this foundation to encourage youths to save some money that would help them in times of uncertainties.
“For the fact we do difficult tasks, one of us can fall sick and possibly have no money in that time. We save UGX 1,000 weekly and these savings help us counter financial needs and uncertainties,” said Kasoma.
With the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, youths say that regardless of how much they work, things are never moving like they should and call for government intervention mostly through mass vaccination.