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Cholera outbreak in Nam’

Oct 8 • 5640 views • 9 Comments on Cholera outbreak in Nam’ Africa, Diary of a Muzungu, East Africa, Kampala, Travel, travel health, Travel tips and advice, Uganda, Volunteering

It’s been raining heavily all day.

The gutter is falling off the front of the house (not that the landlord cares) and Eva has a poloneck jumper on “It’s so COLD!” she says, while I sit here in the same light clothes and sandals I always wear.

Rain here is both a blessing and a curse.

Uganda is a fantastically green and lush country. The two rainy seasons mean that many people (98% of the country are subsistence farmers) can plant and harvest twice a year.

The rain often follows an intensely hot day and is the perfect antidote for the very fine red dust which inevitably gets into everything. People somehow arrive at work spotless, years of practice tiptoeing round puddles.

[PHOTO: even the 4×4 had to be pushed up the Maram road after the rain nr Mt Elgon in May]

But the downside is the havoc so much water can play: soil erosion leading to poor crop yields / increase pressure on forested areas, destruction of roads (few have tarmac), dangerous driving conditions, inability to travel and therefore the knock-on effect on education and successful running of businesses. If it rains, everyone’s very late for work, you can depend on it.

The biggest infrastructure investment this country appears to boast of is the drainage channels than border the country’s roads. Some of them are quite posh! But many of them are de facto garbage tips (no such thing as Municipal Garbage collection here). People wee in them: men stand up and aim from up high, women climb in and crouch. Recently I saw the legs of a dead dog sticking out of a post office sack in a channel near my house (well I smelled it before I saw it). The funniest thing was seeing a brand new car tipped at a preacarious angle, nose first into the ditch on a narrow (but fast) road.

But today’s worry is the spread of disease: Eva reports that most of Namuwongo is closed. The Council have been ordering food vendors off the streets in an effort to crack down on a Cholera outbreak in the slum / shanty town just below my house on the marshes. Eight people have died from Cholera this week.

The heavy rain has poured down the hill into the shanty town, washing rubbish and sewage with it, no doubt flooding some houses. This area is prone to flooding, having no drainage channels or anywhere for the water to run off. Mosquitoes quickly breed in the stagnant water ready to pass on Malaria the very next day; Cholera thrives in these kinds of conditions.

Entering the slum is like going into a different world, it’s like being on a post-apocalyptic filmset, a maze of narrow pathways just feet from the railway track, between houses made of strips of battered wood and rusty old corrugated iron. But it’s full of life, the kids are incredibly curious and fun. They haven’t been exposed to tourists so they’re delighted with a “Bye!” (said at a very high pitch) and a wave; they rarely ask for money (yet – give it a few years …)

[PHOTO: child next to sewage in Namuwongo slum, courtesy of another Flickr user].

It’s alarming to read that the Council now plans to demolish houses in the slum without pit latrines. As it’s a shanty town I imagine everyone’s there illegally, so what comeback will they have? This could create quite a stir.

I forgot to buy our usual bananas for breakfast so gave Simpson money to get himself some chapatis – just hope he didn’t buy them in Nam’ this morning…

Official story here:


Note to mother:
Cholera is passed through water and human contact. I don’t eat street food and we boil and filter all our water (and frankly we don’t s**t in the street either!)
You still on for January visit?!

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9 Responses to Cholera outbreak in Nam’

  1. lizziema says:

    Hi Charlie glad you added the postscript as I was about to pick up the phone! I presume that you have had a jab? But I believe they are not 110% proof against it. As my Aunty Mary said of Barracuda "Don't take liberties with them" Just you be ultra careful…please!!!!!Just back from very gentle germ free Wales in beautiful Autumn weather watching mad people trying to get up muddy hills in cars about 80 years old. What an ecentric lot we are. Yes we are still coming unless of course it worsens and we will be banned from coming to Uganda. I think that can happen.

  2. lizziema says:

    Keep us posted please on what is happening. Presume Keith has arrived?

  3. lizziema says:

    I meant 100% proof ….

  4. Charlie says:

    Keith arrived safely – he missed the coach, the bus and nearly the plane!! More importantly, I have Marmite!! And b'day pressies!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!
    Am the only one talking about cholera outbreak. Heard no more so guess it's contained. Not first time I've heard of it here. As I said it's water borne and I take precautions so jab unnecessary. I'm far more worried about big fat ticks that are loving Baldrick!

  5. sjwaller says:

    Hi Charlie Another worried Mum!!! You take care of yourself please! Great blog this week.

  6. Charlie says:

    Tx for your concern ladies but there's nothing to worry about if you're a mzungu with health insurance (i.e. like me).
    As a VSO I hang out with doctors, nurses – and even the pilot who flies the only air ambulance in the country (based 5 minutes away)!
    I get regular updates on the situation, and it seems to have stablised, it just makes you aware of how precarious lives are here: an outbreak has put street vendors out of pocket (how are they feeding their families this week?) and will shortly make many homeless when their houses are knocked down. They have been marked with a big X ready for demolition.

  7. Emma says:

    Hi Charlotte
    Just re-attempting to comment on your blog (again!) having lost the facility (mentally) to do so recently. Hence, this is really boring and short as it's just meant to see if it works… (I've been sending emails instead which I hope you've got, together with a small package…!)
    Exxx

  8. […] I used to live a stone’s throw away, where the noise from the shanty town along the railway tracks was a constant backdrop to my life. Here’s more about the terrible effects of  the heavy rains on life in the slum […]

  9. […] saw the face of the train!” Our housegirl Eva shouted excitedly one day. (I guess that means it nearly ran her over!) The train had approached […]

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