Owino Market Fire

Everything Turned to Ash on Ash Wednesday

Women sit despondent as fire rages

St. Balikudembe Market (Owino Market) is a well-known landmark in Kampala. It is a big local market and an interesting tourist attraction.  The people who sell in this market are mainly small scale business people who started from scratch often with just one item, mainly second-hand clothes, shoes, bags, but also food items, vegetables, fruit and some hardware - utensils, umbrellas, etc.  By reinvesting the daily profit, they grew to being able to barely sustain themselves and their families.

On Wednesday morning, Kampala woke up to a conflagration in Owino Market. Most of the stalls and the belongings of the owners were destroyed in the fire. Everything turned to ash on Ash Wednesday! There were tears all round with wailing and great distress as people beheld everything they worked for and possessed go up in flames!  The fire brigade arrived but had no water in the tanks! The people who lives in huts and shacks around the market were displaced, many were hospitalized with burns.  Many of the people who slept here, often in the open, were from Karamoja, an arid area. Hence the movement of people to the city.  Some of these children used to come for a meal to the Good Shepherd Centre in Kisenyi, run by the Missionaries of the Poor, and at which three of us Franciscans also work.  We worry about the children that used to come for a meal - they are not to be found in the usual places.

What we see now is only ashes, bags of ragged clothing, burned plastic.  We pray for the ones in hospital and the displaced ones.  We also pray that the city of Kampala will in future be better prepared to handle crises.

The cause of the fire is yet unknown. 

Sr. Lydia D'Sa, FMSA 

Owino Market in flames

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