Aimee’s Uganda Blog
Posted March 24, 2012
The last couple of weeks I have been conducting in-depth interviews with residents of the six parishes of Bunambutye. It has been a totally incredible experience and I have met some wonderful people and learnt so much about life in the villages and the many challenges facing the people living here.
We have been working non-stop to try and meet with as many people as possible before the rain arrives and everyone will be out in their gardens and farms planting their crops. I really would not know where to start with trying to discuss the many findings but taking health for example, some of the findings are that;
The vast majority of children sampled have been born at home with no trained health professional present,
The majority of families have lost children to preventable diseases,
All families are affected regularly malaria and only one family I have spoken to have enough mosquito nets
The health centre has very poor facilities and resources, it has no midwife, and frequently no drugs. People quite often do not even go to the health centre as they fear they will need treatment which they will not be able to afford. This lady for example wanted me to take a picture of the painful growths she has on her body which she has not sought any treatment for. (Sorry, I know this is quite a graphic start to my blog!)
We are currently looking at ways of developing a link between this health centre either through the US or the UK. The health centre are very enthusiastic about this so if you work at a health centre / hospital and would like to get involved then please get in touch.
Some photo’s of the health centre…
The drug store…When Julie and Darren visit in May and we are going to build some shelves and get some boxes to store the drugs in…and make it look pretty!
The incomes of the villagers are extremely low as most of them are subsistence farmers who only sell their crops to pay for essentials such as soap, sugar, school fees and medical emergencies. All of the families interviewed are aware of ways in which they could increase and diversify their incomes but simply have not been given the opportunity and do not have the resources to do so. Facilitating access to microfinance and business skills training are certainly areas for potential development and ones which I will endeavour to explore.
The recurring pattern of drought and famine is quite shocking, there is basically a famine every year at around this time and malnourishment is a serious problem. There are no irrigation systems in place so they only harvest once a year in July / August and by this time of year (March / April) they have used or sold all of the last harvest and they are just trying to scrape by until they harvest again. The extent of the famine depends on the previous years harvest which is getting worse due to climate change and the resultant unreliable rain. Many people look for work as laborers at this time where they can earn around £1 a day which is just enough to buy some flour to make posho for the family. Posho is the staple diet here, it is a stodgy, flavourless food made of maize flour. At this time of year it is often not supplemented by any other foods and is often eaten only once a day.
Food security and irrigation are definitely priority needs and needs which the government are attempting to address. It is a complex and large scale problem however and huge amounts of resources are needed in order to tackle the problem effectively, resources which the government unfortunately do not have.
Robert, the Parish Chief is passionate and knowledgable about the development of his community and has been a great support, he has organised all of the interviews and patiently sat through and translated them….they are very long with each one taking about 2 and a half hours!
Me and Robert (red t-shirt) conducting an interview
An introduction to a few of the participants…
This lady (Jennifer) is looking after 15 of her children and grandchildren, all of the grand-children’s parents have died from aids and so have four of her grand-children. She looks after the remaining children on an extremely low income in a very small house, all of the children are in school and doing well…she is incredible and I literally don’t know how she does it!! She would love to have her own shop one day to help pay for all the school fees.
This lady (Anna) is one of Bunambutye’s buisness women / entrepreneurs. She sells matooke and tomatoes on the side of the road. She would really like to receive business training and a small loan so that she can grow her business and to expand her range of products to increase her income.
This lady (Naome) and her family are living in severe poverty, they live in a one room mudhut and are really struggling to survive. An example of the effect that poverty has had on their life is from a couple of years ago. One of her children fell ill and she took him to the medical centre for treatment, they referred her to the hospital 10 km away as the child needed a drip which was not available locally. She had no money for transport she started to walk carrying the child and the child died on the way to the hospital. I found it heartbreaking that this could actually happen and felt more motivated than ever to try and make some positive changes in these villages so that occurrences like this can hopefully someday become a thing of the past.
Despite the hardships the families are evidently facing they have greeted me with openness, positivity, warmth, enthusiasm and hope. I have also been shown great generosity with many of the families giving me a gift such as eggs, tomatoes or some milk, this is a big sacrifice especially at this time of year and never fails to be extremely humbling. The families are very happy and grateful that their children are now receiving a good primary education through King’s and the impact this has had on the community is huge.
Some pictures taken in the villages…
Another outcome of the consultation is meeting a lovely little girl called Pheobe. After watching a documentary based in a local hospital (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/unreported-world/episode-guide/series-2011/episode-13) we decided to add a question about hydrocephalis onto the questionnaire. Through this I became aware of Pheobe who is 3 and a half and was born with the condition. She did not complete her treatment as her parents could not afford the transport costs (the hospital is 30km away) and has not been to see a doctor for almost three years. We went to visit her at home and found that she is very underdeveloped for her age, her head appears large and heavy and she struggles to hold it up and she cant crawl or walk and isn’t toilet trained. I went with her and her Mum back to the hospital where they taught her about physiotherapy and gave her some exercises. Here are a few photo’s and videos of her (ok, no video’s as they are too big…that’s annoying! If you want to see them let me know and I will email them instead)…she is totally adorable!!! I am trying to find out about buying one of the walking frames for her as she really needs it, she was so excited when she was given it to try and was shouting (in Lugisu) ‘I can walk, I can walk!!’.
I have also had the opportunity to attend a 4 day training course for local civil servants developed and funded by USAID on development planning, local and national government and initiative, environment, HIV, health and gender…it was fab!!!
I have also been to the local coffee plantation which is run by parents of one of the teachers at King’s, it was awesome…I will be bringing coffee back with me…not sure how long the novelty of roasting and grinding it every time I want a cup will last though!
A lesson in grinding coffee…he is the same age as my Nan and was super excited when I told him that she is the same age and also likes coffee. He was laughing hysterically for ages saying ‘I will give a bag of coffee for Monica’…random!!
Life at the school is still good, it’s lovely returning after spending the day in the villages, I am always given such a warm welcome back and always enjoy catching up with everyone in the evening.
Slaughtering a chicken time…never a dull moment here!
Anyway, that’s quite enough for now, if you have any questions / comments or suggestions please get in touch and ill reply as soon as poss!
Thanks for reading!