The Fatal Flaw in Uganda's Covid-19 Emergency Relief Plan

As Uganda struggles through a strict 42-day lockdown amid a devastating new wave of Covid-19 cases, the government risks excluding the poorest citizens from life-saving emergency relief. This is because it is using national ID data to find those in need of Covid relief. Yet millions of the most marginalised aren't on the system. On June 18, 2021 President Yoweri Museveni announced a national lockdown, partly to protect the country's fragile health system which is under immense pressure and running out of oxygen.

A few days later, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja said the government would provide emergency cash transfers to the most vulnerable during this health crisis. On July 8, 2021 cash transfers were to be distributed, primarily via mobile money accounts. Officials said that they will rely on data from the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA), which administers the national biometric ID, to confirm who gets support. However, if the goal is truly to reach the most vulnerable, targeting those in need is not as easy as the Prime Minister believes - especially if the government is relying on its national digital ID system, writes Dorothy Mukasa, Team Leader at the Unwanted Witness,Uganda, Salima Namusobya, Executive Director at the Initiative for Economic and Social Rights, Uganda and Christiaan van Veen who is a Director of the Digital Welfare State and Human Rights Project at CHRGJ, New York (USA).

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