We went for a walk today with one of the district health workers. He was following up on the use of bednets which were provided to all the households for free. Well, all the households that were registered and to those members of the household who were known. Numbers are a guestimate at absolute best and a SWAG at worst. About every four months on top of every other method they have (social media, church, village elders) one of the workers tries to do a follow up.
We were lead by the Village Elder. Originally in wellies and tattered pants, he vanished for a few minutes only to return in flip-flops and nice pants which apparently constitutes visiting clothes in these parts.
We headed past the houses lining the road and up the hill on a one person wide beaten down dirt path. I don’ think any of us really had recognized just how many people are living back off the roads connected to schools and neighbors only by foot paths. What it is also means that every single bit of building materials or personal possessions is carried in by hand. This is probably not as complicated as it seems since there are no wells, no running water, no plumbing and certainly neither power lines or generators at even the wealthiest house in this village.
If you have money, you build of brick often making your own. If you don’t – well then it is wood with filling (cement, dirt and cow dung mixture)). Windows are an uncommon luxury and the floors are dirt. There is only natural light, what little makes it through either windows covered with cloth or through cracks in the joins. The house is really for sleeping and storage of the minimal clothing the family might have. Cooking is down outside. I did not see a candle, but in any case, each of the tiny rooms inside the houses only had a bed and cords for hanging possessions. The chickens went where ever they want – the goats not as much simply because most of them were staked out.
Obviously bed nets are critical to keeping especially the young children free of mosquitos and thus malaria. The nets were there (some are white, some are blue) unfortunately, less than 1 in 4 are actually being used properly in this village which is still better than it used to be.
I will just leave you with the photos – from the most expensive (brick) to least (dab & wattle) house and a couple of outside cooking areas. Then compare it to your life. There is nothing nobel about living like this; people are not happier than westerners. What they are is exhausted from the effort it takes, literally sunup to sundown just to care for children, house, animals, fields. The children who walk km to school as well as those who don’t go because they can’t afford the uniform. Time spent every day hauling water in. And it is not living in harmony with nature. It is wresting a living from the land, slash and burn clearing because it is the easiest. It is dumbing trash because there is no where to take it.
The Crops: (along with the more prosaic sweet potatoes, peppers, potatoes, cassava, maize, etc
The Houses – outsides:
It is a land of poverty, natural beauty and people doing their best.
I shudder to think where Uganda is going to be in 20 years. The population pressure is enormous. The rainforest is being rapidly encroached by people who need those trees to build their houses.