So I am writing this post on Monday but it wont get put up on the internet until Tuesday because we don’t have wifi, because it’s the end of the month and the bill needs to be paid. This is an idea Im not used to since we have automatic payments in the first world. I shouldn’t be surprised though, since the closest bank and ATM is an hour and 20 minutes away. What have I been up to?
Sunday I went to church. I am not that religious but I thought it would be cool to see church here. I went to the early 8am service which was English. After, the services are in Rujiga, the local language. There are two major religions in Uganda, but in the country its mostly Christianity and in the cities there is also Islam. So my service was basically catholic with a few readings from the bible, and some singing of psalms. What is was different? Well there were about 100 children there. Buhoma has a few boarding schools where the children are required to attend the English mass on Sunday mornings and sing. They are very good! They were ages 4 to 17 or 18. Most of the songs were in English but some were in the local language as well. There was one other white person, and about 25 adults in the English mass. The adults like to go to the English mass because its earlier, shorter and they can practice their English as well. The sermon was given over a microphone which was hard to hear since it was running off the generator outside. The building is a large brick building that is shaped like a church and it had a few green-yellow-blue stained glass windows. The children passed out the song books. It lasted about two hours. Afterwards I met Obid, the man who helped me on the bus!! I was very excited to see him again and he invited me to get a tour of the hospital and nursing school in Buhoma which is what I did Monday! After church I got a rolox which is a crepe with eggs or you can get a chapate which is just the crepe. Very yummy snack for the walk back home.
So Monday morning I went down to the hospital to get a tour. I met Obed and he showed me to the communications office where a woman named Ida gave me the tour. The hospital is only 11 years old. There is an insurance scheme but it only given to the surrounding community members at $3 a year where if they need an hospital care, 70% of it is covered. If you are not under the insurance scheme, you are usually only required to pay 60% of your bill anyway due to grants and funding. A lot of their funding is from donors whether individual or commercial. They have grants in place for certain things like free condoms and contraceptives. They have a kitchen for people to help cook food for their sick loved ones who are staying in the hospital. They also have a mothers house, where if you live too far from the hospital, you can live there for about two weeks before your due date to make sure you deliver the baby in the hospital. I thought that was amazing. They deliver about 100 babies each month. They do have surgery, and diagnostic imaging. All pregnant mothers get tested for HIV and then if positive begin treatment, and are enrolled to continue treatment throughout the birth. The baby is then also put onto treatment as a preventative so that the mother can breastfeed. At first I was shocked but then I realized, where do you think they are going to get formula from? Who will pay for that? Here in this area there is a lower rate of HIV, around 4.5% than the national of 7%. The hospital has a responsibility to the Batwa people. There are 101 villages all around this area. In each village is a Village Health Team that are volunteers. They are trained to identify health issues so that when a village community nurse comes they can communicate those needs. These nurses have motorcycles, sometimes have to camp out for a few days to get to the remote areas of the Batwa villages. They do a lot of community outreach with sex education and nutrition education. So what are the major diseases that come to the hospital? Malaria, TB, malnutrition, pneumonia. The hospital raises money for mosquito nets to decrease malaria cases. They test and treat people for TB. They organized a community garden to provide for nutritious food for specific cases. So that’s all the information that I was told. What did I see? I saw about 30 people waiting to see a doctor. I saw children in the children ward sick with their parents sleeping on the floor next to them. I saw a women trying to breast feed a tiny baby. I saw people cooking in the kitchen for their loved ones. I saw pregnant women sitting on the grass talking to each other. A saw a reverend praying with Batwa patients. I didn’t see that many doctors or nurses. I think they might need more. It costs about $2000 to pay a doctor in Bwindi for the year. The nursing school charges about $500 for the diploma. Its insane for me to think how cheap that is but meanwhile that’s about 1.5 million Ugandan shillings for that nursing student to come up with. A bar of chocolate here is 3000 ugandan shillings, less than a dollar. I don’t know how to complain. Why is the American chocolate three dollars? Or Why is school so expensive here for someone to get a better education and give back?
On to the nursing school. It has been open for two years. Right now it has 45 students but can hold about 100 I believe. They have dormitories for students and staff as well as a garden for their own food. Every student gets an ipad, and they have 24-7 internet. Why? A lot of their lectures are actually from the U.S so they need to be able to access them whenever they want. They also have smart boards to help with their teaching. (even I dont have those) Two americans helped build the school. Students go to school for three years and they have a clinical lab too. Their clinical lab has white mannequins to practice on.
The reason there is a nursing school so close to the hospital and so far away from the main cities, is to try to train people from around this area, in this area, so that they stay here. The biggest issue with young people going to university in Kampala or elsewhere away from this South-West Uganda, is they don’t come back. That is why there isn’t a veterinarian in this area, other than the gorilla researchers who don’t do livestock.
Another issue I have come across here, is that even though young people go to university, they come back to Bwindi and there isn’t any jobs for them. All they have seen in Bwindi is tourism, so even though they got a degree in finance, or welding, they think they should open a lodge. Well let me tell you, that’s the last thing Bwindi needs. There are over 12 lodges here. And none of them are ever fully booked.
These people are smart but tourism isn’t going to last forever. It doesn’t even last the whole year. They need to come up with better ideas that are sustainable and will work all year around.
10 more days until I leave Bwindi and Uganda. Tomorrow and next wednesday are the last days I will see the gorillas.