I haven’t written much because I have been on the road most of the last three weeks. A few weeks a go government of Uganda paid supplements to major newspapers publicising their achievements in the recovery plan for Northern Uganda. I took a trip to the north and east with Isis-WICCE an organisation am currently working with to finish my masters.
These peoples stories tell a different reality. The case is simple not much on the ground yet to cause celebrations and wastage of money to put news ads. That money invested in supplements could have well changed the situation of these people I spoke to and many many others.
But since it is election time here ‘you have to blow the trumpet’ even in situations that are dire. These people’s lives show not much has been done for communities that have faced over a decade of conflict especially those people whose bodies were the battle ground of the war – the women!
Domestic Violence is still a big problem. Everyday the police in the north record high numbers of assault and murders. Women are the worst victims and the whole population has remained traumatised. The recovery plan has not covered immediate problems like trauma and as long as people are traumatised not much can progress. Rosebell's photo.
Ruth Ochieng of Isis-WICCE (Right) and Barbra Otuku talking to a 13 year old boy at a police station in Pader. He was arrested, for the 4th time this year, for defilement. He is in primary four, I was in Senior one when I was his age. The Police have no capacity to counsel him so they keep him in cells. He has a single mother who has enough burdens. The community wants nothing to do with him. Where is the future of such children, the sheer victims of circumstances and where is the government plan. Rosebell's photo.
Just a few hours after delivery at Lira Palwo health center. This is a health center that serves about 30,000 people but it had just one nurse on duty, one bed for delivery, no gloves, no medicine. And this is not an isolated incident most health centers I saw nurses have to improvise exposing themselves to HIV in order to help a woman give life. But some admitted sometimes they have to turn away women.
Susan Adongo is a Mid Wife, she was in charge of Palwo health center II alone. The women she helps to deliver often walk more than 20km to reach her. She had only painkillers left the day we visited. Susan risks her life to deliver women in absence of gloves. She had not received her salary for two months. She says the issue of maternal health has not been put as a priority.
The rate of girl child school dropout is high in the north. There are many teenage pregnancies. This young girl was at a health center in Lira after walking distance. There was one nurse on duty and the center has a theatre that is not operational. If she got a complication it would take another 40 km on bad road to get her to a crowded regional hospital.
Some women we spoke to about problems they face after going back home from camps where they lived for about over a decade. Many women talked of reproductive health issues especially fistula which is widespread due to rapes during the war.
Women like this one have suffered the worst crimes during the war but post conflict rehabilitation often does not have their voices or their participation. Many women in N.Uganda are currently being denied land rights many widows have no rights and other older women have remained in camps with no help.
A mother in Serere health center IV gives her baby a bath two hours after birth. The center has no mosquito nets yet this baby and the mother were staying at the hospital over night. Malaria is endemic in this area and most infant deaths in Uganda are from malaria.
Soroti district health officer told me on average a health center II which serves about 5000 people mainly concetrating on primary health recieves about Shs 4 million (abt $2000) per year for drugs.
The issues addressing the welfare of ordinary people in the north are still not addressed. Maternal deaths are still high. Uganda loses about 6000 mothers per year due to pregnancy related complications. Recently at the All Africa Anglican Bishops conference in Uganda, the head of UNFPA Janet Jackson put the deaths in a way that I can’t forget. That for very 90 minutes, a time it takes for a football match, a mother dies in Uganda. And for those of us who love football so much it is a comparison that can’t leave our minds. Normalising the situation in northern Uganda will take more than just road constructions.
I heard stories of women getting snake bites as they cross bushes for kilometers in search of a health center. I also met Theatre Assistant in Serere who mans a well equiped theatre donated by AMREF and there’s supposed to be a medical doctor to operate but he does all the operations (minor) and he has to refer lots of patients to another regional hospital about 40 km away. He is on call 24/7 and 300 whatever days in a year. He earns $100 and the time I spoke to him he had not received his salary for two months.
How do you expect this man to survive and offer his skills to people who need them most?