As Uganda confirmed its first COVID-19 case on 24 March 2020, president HE Yoweri Kaguta Museveni addressed the nation with a number of directives to curb the virus. One of them was a ban on public transport. The president asked all market vendors who decided to continue working to sleep at their workspaces and avoid daily movement to their homes, which had to be done on foot.
Since then, market vendors adapted to this exceptional situation. Many of them still needed an income to support their families and opted for sleeping at their stalls. Their homes were too far, and walking back to them every day was tiring. At night, they do their best to live a normal life. They cook, wash clothes, or have dinner at a nearby restaurant.
This story essentially illustrates life in the markets during the night in the tough COVID-19 Lockdown times.
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Kasule Francis, a famous Nakawa Market vendor in Kampala, Uganda, prepares and packs Irish potatoes in small polythene bags on 7 April 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, what used to be his food store is now a sleeping room and stock collection area.
A mother sleeping beside her child in a mosquito net by a veranda at the Nakawa Market in Kampala. Many single mothers in the market have resorted to staying with their young ones because they do not have anyone maturely responsible to look after them while they work.
Slightly before the breakdown, buyers early bird the market to avoid the chaos and rush that happens in early morning at Nakawa Market.
A vendor at Nakawa Market organizes banana leaves at his stall before he gets to sleep.
A woman washing her clothes along a walkway in the Nakawa Market after spending four days away from home.
11:17 PM, an exhausted market vendor in Nakasero Market sleeps off next to his merchandise on the road.
Moses Onen (42), a Nakawa Market vendor, counts bundles of greens to sell in the morning. Food delivery trucks were one of the few vehicles exempted from the driving ban by the Ugandan government. They were allowed to operate during the night since they were essential for delivering food into Kampala.
Charles Ongom, a security guard of Nakasero Market, buys fruit before his night shift on 10 April 2020. Security was heavily deployed in most of the markets in Kampala to ensure that vendors and their property are safe in the night.
Gertrude (45), a Nakawa Market vendor, reads a newspaper in a self-made tent where she spends her nights on 9 April 2020. She decided to stay at the market and sell vegetables so she can continue sending money to her five children back at home.
Mukisa Jackson (24), a dealer in oranges in Nakawa Market listening to the radio with his small phone while he WhatsApp chats on his smart phone.
"What used to be a store before the pandemic is now a sleeping area for me and my stock"
In the markets, restaurants providing local food were essential in the night. In the image, a Nakasero Market vendor is waiting for her dinner order.
Vendors sleeping next to their stock at Nakawa Market in Kampala.
Basalirwa Godfrey, a Nakawa Market vendor, has a bicycle but could not ride it to his home and back everyday because he lives too far. His first night sleeping in market seemed safe, so he decided to join his colleague sleeping over. Godfrey rode home every weekend to check on his family.