Bwera, Uganda

Bwera, Uganda

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Government Corruption in Uganda: My Work Site

Kasese Police impound drugs

Tuesday, 21st June, 2011

New Vision Newspaper

Security officers in Kasese have intercepted a consignment of suspected stolen medical drugs and other items at Bwera Hospital.

The drugs were hidden under a heap of expired drugs in the hospital kitchen. Bwera is the only Government hospital in Kasese.

The resident district commissioner, Capt. James Mwesigye, the district Police commander, Paul Mumbogwe, and the crime intelligence officer, Robert Muhenda, carried out the operation after a tip-off.

The drugs recovered were sodium chloride, glucose intravenous, lumaterm, ferrous sulphate, chloromphenicol sodium and antiretroviral drugs.

The other items were condoms, laboratory equipment, a water filter, a weighing scale, a water tank, a blood pressure machine, a generator, office telephones and gauze.

Acting medical superintendent Dr. Jonathan Sekito, who said he had spent one day in the office, promised to help the Police with the investigations.

Senior nursing officer Faith Kitsumbire said the expired drugs were kept in the kitchen due to lack of space. She, however, said she was not aware of the non-expired medicines in the kitchen.

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Dirty Feet

My feet are ugly. They always have been, or so I have been told on countless occasions by my children. They used to run away in disgust if my feet accidentally grazed them. I have snagged many a pair of hose into complete ruin on my ugly feet. Sandpaper has a finer grain. I once cut my heel to the meat trying to remove the cracked callus with one of those "potato peeler" type pedicure tools. Realized my error when I actually heard the blood plinking on the bathroom floor.

Africa has not been kind to my feet, which are my primary mode of transportation. Uganda has two seasons, wet and dry, each occurring twice during a year. That leaves dust or mud. Although Uganda has several decent paved road, taking travelers in and out of a few larger cities the majority are dirt roads/paths in varying degrees of disrepair. These roads are the means to get around for most Ugandans, into the town center, the market, village homes, school, church and most other destinations. One walks in the dust or mud.

In my town of Bwera, at the nexus of the equator and the Uganda/Democratic Republic of Congo border, shoes are optional. Many families cannot afford shoes for the numerous children with the avenger household having seven. Schools are peppered with kids without shoes, who walk and forth daily in the mud or dust. Along the road many women from the village walk without shoes, "fetching" water, walking to their gardens to "dig" or carrying goods to and from the market. Most shoes purchased come from second-hand markets carrying goods that have been shipped in from industrialized countries to developing nations. These shoes are typically displayed on a tarp on the ground at various markets, selling men's, women's and children's sizes. If you have ever wondered what happened to those lilac, satin sling-backs worn by the bridesmaids in your sister's wedding- I have seen them in Africa.

Now I have the luxury of having arrived in Africa with five pairs of shoes plus my beloved flip-flops. For a person who loves to be barefoot and only wears shoes when decorum dictates their necessity, I have found I must wear shoes at all time. Even in the house which has resulted in the need for outdoor shoes and indoor shoes. This little dilemma is created by the ever present dust or mud. My house is littered with dust every day despite daily sweeping and frequent mopping of the cement floors. Walking to the hospital, the market, or taxi park just adds more layers of dirt to my feet. My feet have tan lines which simply look like additional layers of dirt. They are cracked and filled with dirt embedded so deeply I cannot remove it. I heat water every day for my basin bath and soak and scrub those dirty dogs with little success.

Now my feet are ugly and dirty. I even lost the nail on my big toe.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

From the Beginning

I arrived in Uganda in August, suffered through 10 weeks of training which taught us about life in Uganda, cultural norms and practices, technical skills, and an African language.  My work in western Uganda places me in the Lhukonzo speaking region and a language used by very few.  Uganda literally has dozens of languages that are spoken in different regions throughout the country.  On any given day it is not unusual for me to hear 4-5 different  tongues.  Most of the professionals I work with speak at least 3-4 languages.

There are 45 people in my training class (and we are all still here) from all over the US.  Typically, PC volunteers are in their 20's but my group had six over 45 including me.  We stayed with families during training which I found very painful and lonely.  I had a wonderful host family but many years of running my own house made the adjustment challenging to say the least. 

PC Uganda places volunteers in three sectors; community health (my assignment), economic development and education.  It is PC's policy that a volunteer cannot take the place of a paid Ugandan therefore direct service is eliminated (except for secondary school teachers).  PC works on sustainable development and building capacity among the nationals. Most community health and economic development volunteers create their own service projects and goals, the objective being that whatever is started has the capacity to continue and grow after the volunteer has gone.

I arrived at my site in late October and was thrilled to find my little house has both electricity and indoor running water.  The water is frequently out as there are more people than the system can support so it is rationed (Uganda has the second largest population growth in the world). I store water in 20 liter jerry cans for those dry times, the longest lasting 10 days.  I "harvest" rainwater when necessary and  use it for drinking, cooking, and bathing.  All water must be disinfected so I filter the rainwater and then purify it for drinking.  I have no hot water other than what is warmed on my little gas stove and I have not yet grown fond of cold showers so I heat water and bathe from a basin. 

My town in in the foothills of the beautiful Rwenzori Mountains and borders the Democratic Republic of Congo (we are forbidden to visit the Congo by PC).  My house is only a few kilometers from the Equator and Queen Elizabeth National Park (more on the later).

I work at Bwera General Hospital in the Community Health Department.  I spent two days a week in the HIV Clinic but most of my work involves development projects in the nearby villages as well as PC's first national leadership camp for boys. 

Projects completed or in the works:
  •  Household budgeting
  •  Mud Stoves Managing Village Savings and Loan Challenges
  • Life Skills Classes (for teens)
  • Camp BUILD (leadership camp for boys)
  • Village Pig Project (for households of orphan or persons living with AIDS)
  • Peace Corps Sexual Harassment and Assault Committee
  • Solar Lamp Training and Distribution
  • Reusable Menstrual Pads
More to come on the projects as they unfold.