So, another month has gone by, this one started quite tragically unfortunately. When I walk out of my room I can see three huts in front of me, we are separated by the school’s fence. About a month ago there was a gathering outside my room and one of the women from these houses was telling the teachers through the fence that her little girl was very ill and they needed to take her to the hospital in Mbale (30km away). The 2 year old had been sick on and off for about a year, and six months ago had been injected with quinine (for treatment of malaria) and after that she deteriorated and was unable to walk properly. I gave some money to help towards the transport and the family were grateful, I felt like I had helped and basically just went on with my day. For the next few days I asked the teachers how she was and they said that she was back home and improving. I regularly thought to myself as I looked over and waved that I had to go and visit her. However, I never went and then I had a knock on my door, it was her father crying, asking for money to get him to the hospital in Mbale to collect the body of his daughter. I have since found out that the family sold everything they owned to try and treat their daughter. They did not even have a chicken left. They are a young couple, the mother, Jane is only 20 years old and they have another child who is three and they also care for a five year old orphan. They didn’t come asking for money or telling me of their plight, they just did everything in their power to try and help their daughter. This was sadly not enough and like most families living in these communities, in the case of serious illness they are fighting a losing battle and people here so often die of preventable and treatable diseases.
There are numerous contributing factors to this tragic situation...
- To start with the little girl should have been sleeping under a treated mosquito net.
- She should have been living in a house with a good level of hygiene (this is incredibly difficult to achieve in a mud hut in the rainy season!).
- The medical centre and the parents should have been better informed about the dangers of directly injecting quinine and a more suitable alternative should have been available.
- Suitable treatment should have been available closer to home so that the family did not have to wait until the situation was desperate to take the expensive decision to travel to hospital.
- The treatment would ideally have been free of charge or if not then the family should have been in a position to afford it...
- They should be able to earn a decent living, to be able to access and afford good quality, effective treatment and ultimately live a dignified life free of poverty.
Thanks to your regular support, I was able to pay for the transport to bring the child’s body back to the village, to give some money for the funeral and to buy the family some goats. They have been incredibly grateful, it really feels like too little too late though and makes me more determined in the future to work to ensure some improvements for the lives of the people living in these villages!
I have now bought a supply of mosquitos nets to at least try and prevent some cases of malaria. I have started holding sessions at the local health centre to distribute them. When a mother comes with a small child we invite her to talk to us and a trained staff member ensures that the families are well informed about preventing and treating malaria and will use their nets effectively.Community Groups
In the last few weeks I have called meetings in each parish and asked representatives from the various community groups to attend. I have spoken at length to the groups and learnt about their structure, the activities they are undertaking, the activities they would like to do and the challenges they face. All of the groups are keen to develop and have good ideas for how they could work together to reduce their poverty from growing and selling sunflowers and rice to buying chickens, goats and cows for their members. Most of the groups are very new and were only formed in the last year in order to access a government scheme called NAADS. This scheme offers some assistance to groups such as giving seeds or a goat to one or two group members per year. This is at least some support for the people in these communities.
A community group meeting in Bumufuni Parish
One of the main challenges which all of the groups face is capital, they save on average 500 Ugandan shillings per member per week and this is new development for them, until recently they did not undertake group savings. This is the equivalent of around 12p each and is all they can afford (in fact some members described how some weeks they struggle to find even this small amount). As you can imagine, saving this amount does not accumulate to much and the groups use this money to loan to members at times of difficulty such as a medical emergency or a household need. This doesn’t leave anything to develop income generating activities or to start lifting themselves out of poverty.
This group makes ropes which they sell for the equivalent of 4p, this project works well for them as they did not need much capital to get started.
Community groups, in particular, women’s groups, if developed well can support their members, families and the wider community in many ways and really have the potential to reduce poverty. I have collected information on each of the groups and the challenge now is deciding what type of support to offer and to which groups...they all seem so worthy! All of the groups have members who are widows and women who are caring for orphans and / or members with disabilities and all are desperate for assistance! I am very hopeful of being able to deliver some support however and am continuing to build working relationships with the Red Cross, Send A Cow, Wake Up Ministries and BRAC. We have been spending time together in Bunambutye and are excited about developing some programmes and projects together! We have also organised an exchange visit for some group members to meet a well established and successful group who are based 20km away, this group have worked with both the Red Cross and Send A Cow and were very proud to take me around their houses to demonstrate how they had developed and how they are managing to slowly but surely improve their lives and work their way out of poverty.
They have been taught how to make energy efficient stoves
‘Kitchen Gardens’ and also vegetable patches which have improved nutrition and food security
They have greatly improved the hygiene in their homes and have noticed a resultant improvement in health.
And have also been fortunate to receive improved animals. When they produce, the offspring is given to another group member so the benefit is passed on.
I have also held some group sessions with young people in Bunambutye in order to learn more about their lives. The young girls have an incredibly hard life at home, the challenges they face are overworking, being seem as inferior to men and not having enough food or money. They appeared to have low self confidence and seemed nervous about talking about themselves or discussing any issues they have. The boys do not work so hard at home and seemed to have more time to think about themselves, they are very keen to undertake some income generating activities and were a lot more vocal about the challenges they face and their hopes for the future. What both the boys and the girls want more than anything however is support to continue with their education. They were all uncertain of how long they would be able to stay in school and none of them thought they would be able to attend University. They were looking at me with such hope that I would just come along and sponsor them but of course it is not that easy! Sponsorship for secondary school and university is however what I get approached about more than anything and is certainly a priority need here in these communities.
As I have mentioned in all previous posts, there is a food crises here at the moment as people wait for their crops to grow. And, now to make matters worse there has been flooding! The weather here is extreme and the recent heavy rain has washed away a lot of peoples crops, basically leaving them destitute...it’s really not nice to see people experiencing this. Last year the rain caused landslides and deaths so people are nervous and just hoping that no disasters like this happen again this year.
As the final stage of my community consultation I have been visiting every house in one particular parish in order to gain a greater overall understanding of a specific geographical area (100 residences). The previous consultation used a much larger in-depth interview with fewer families over a far wider area, all six parishes. For the purpose of this survey I am just asking for basic household information such as ages of the family, whether there are any people with disabilities, widows or orphans in the household and have just been having a general chat to them about their lives. I thought I had come to really understand about life here in the last few months but the last week doing these visits has really shocked me, I literally cannot see how some people manage to survive! Some families are quite literally starving! So, against my philosophy of only working on long term solutions to the poverty and giving a ‘hand up rather than a hand out’ , I have decided to prepare food parcels to give to families who I feel are suffering and struggling the most, I cant do all or nothing so I have decided to at least try and do something! I will write more about this in my next blog post.
Thank-you as always for reading and please feel free to comment or get in touch!
A few other photo's...
En route to church