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Coronavirus-induced border bottlenecks slow food deliveries in East Africa

By Reuters | June 2nd 2020

Bottlenecks at borders as government screen lorry drivers to contain coronavirus are putting the delivery of vital food supplies in East Africa at risk, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Friday.

“We could have problems feeding our beneficiaries ... if the situation doesn’t improve,” Julie MacDonald, WFP’s deputy director in Uganda said. She said they only had enough food left for June.

The agency is shipping in 2,000 tonnes of beans and cooking oil to feed some of Uganda’s 1.4 million refugees. Some of it is stuck at Kenya’s Mombasa port and some is stuck at the Ugandan border, she said.

The line of lorries at the border town of Malaba between Kenya and Uganda stretched 60km this week, said Mercy Ireri, an official from the Kenya Transport Association. Mombasa port and Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam are the main gateway to the Indian Ocean for several landlocked nations.

Uganda requires truck drivers from neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania to take coronavirus tests before they are allowed to enter. Tests are also being carried out on the Tanzania-Kenya border.

But delays in returning results has forced truckers to wait for up seven days, said Jackson Katende, spokesman of the Ugandan cargo transport industry body.

“Business is at a standstill,” he said. Paralysis at the Uganda-Kenya border, he said, had more than doubled the time for goods to move from Mombasa to Kampala.

Uganda started imposing restrictions on truckers late April after incoming drivers increasingly tested positive for the disease.

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