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?!