Fire Ravages Owino Market, Kampala

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By Skye Dobson: On Sunday the 31st August a massive fire broke out in Kampala’s Balikuddembe Market – commonly know as Owino Market. The market is the one of the largest outdoor markets in East Africa and is home to around 50,000 traders selling everything from food, to shoes and clothes, to pots and pans, to electronics.

The fire broke out at around 1am on Sunday and completely gutted the inner portion of the market. The highly flammable goods and wooden structures didn’t stand a chance. It is believed billions of shillings worth of merchandise was destroyed.

The traders, many of whom are still repaying loans taken to rebuild their businesses after a similar fire in 2009, are distraught.

Many Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation members were affected by the fire. One group in particular, the Twezimbe Parkyard Disabled Association, were hit hard. This savings group, comprised entirely of disabled persons, lost all of their merchandise and their stalls were reduced to ashes.

Adding insult to injury, the groups’ savings books and collector’s books were also lost in the fire. The group thus has no records left of their savings, the loans they have taken, and their balance to be repaid. This represents a profound challenge for the group. A further challenge is the outstanding loans the group has with other financial institutions. These loans were taken last year when the group’s stalls were consumed by another fire.

Keeping a positive attitude amidst such misfortune is difficult. The groups income source was utterly destroyed and repayments on existing loans – much less the loans necessary to rebuild, will be very difficult to mobilize. ACTogether and the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation are exploring the best way to assist these members.

In this short video, Zawedde, the chairperson of the Twezimbe Parkyard Disabled Association, outlines the challenges they face.