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Somebody ill, somebody dead – start of another week

Jul 11 • 1175 views • No Comments on Somebody ill, somebody dead – start of another week Africa, Diary of a Muzungu, Travel, Uganda, Volunteering

I found it hard to get up today; I lost count of the number of times I put the snooze on. I enjoy seeing the sunlight filter through the new curtains I made from the scarves I bought in Ethiopia.

I get up and unbolt the heavy metal at the back of the house, and listen for the tell-tale sound of claws on concrete as Baldrick bounds round to greet me. I walk through the kitchen across the living room to take the padlock off the front gate; it’s like having two dogs – in a flash Baldrick’s there too. 

Enid is bright and breezy this morning and we compare notes on the electricity situation. Has her compound experienced load shedding (rationing of power apparently because the government owes the supplier Umeme so much money)? We’ve both been fortunate: our fridges still work.

Erik is at university today, doing some research and a text comes through to say Patrick’s at a burial.

Eva meets me at the gate as I’m driving to a meeting. She’s late for work and very apologetic. Both the babies are sick. One has measles and the other has been vomiting.  She’ll “do her work” and go home early. 

Thus starts another typical Monday morning – somebody ill, somebody dead.

As I drive past the single petrol pump, home to my favourite Luganda teachers, I suddenly remember that I owe them 20,000. Getting credit – and being trusted to return – is one of the many small things that make living in Uganda so enjoyable. These guys are lovely, and delight in teaching me new words. On a good day we only communicate in Luganda. They’ve invited me to share lunch with them more than once, if I happen to be passing at dinner time. 

I can’t believe my eyes as I drive along Namuwongo Road and see twenty men and women using brand-new brooms and sweeping piles of dirt from the side of the road. The makeover continues! See photos on a previous blog about how dire the roads have become. 

I hoped I’d miss the Monday rush-hour traffic, alas, no. As I turn right into the Industrial Area, we come to a standstill. One lorry, manoeuvring or unloading, can easily cause a 10 minute jam.

I arrive at the shopping centre. I hate these places. I particularly hate the fact that this one is built on reclaimed wetlands (evidenced by the way the paving tiles are uneven and coming loose even before the second part of the shopping centre is open). As I turn off the main road, the group of ‘insecurity’ stop me, checking my glove compartment for a gun. Security’s become lax over the last few months but today – the anniversary of the bombings in Kampala – everyone is on high alert. How things change in a year – read last year’s description of Kampala after the bombings  

Sunday night reflections

Sitting here watching my TV in Kampala, the capital city, it’s quite easy to forget that the vast majority of Ugandans are subsistence farmers and have no electricity.

The government has various incentives for improving agricultural production. Industrialisation through technology can mean something as simple as a hand grinder for removing kernels from maize cobs, as demonstrated by the Minister this evening. Up to a staggering 25% of agricultural products are lost before they get to market, mainly as a result of bad storage. 15% of cereals and pulses and up to 25% off roots and tubers are lost. This affects every household – as producer or supplier. 

Elsewhere, in northern Uganda the Acholi people are demanding compensation from the supplier erecting electricity pylons for a World Bank funded project, denying the company construction access until they are paid. Others argue that if construction is delayed, the World Bank will think they’re not serious and pull out altogether.

In Kampala, we have connection but we don’t always have power! Last week Umeme announced a load shedding programme. The government hasn’t paid Umeme (a private company) and the consumers are paying the consequences. The government has found X million USD to buy fighter jets, widely believed to have splashed out over half the annual budget on securing the election, and inflation is spiralling, as we all knew it would. The Uganda shilling hit an all-time low last week, only good for a handful of people who are paid in dollars. I fear things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

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