“To be a pregnant woman in Africa is to have one foot in the grave.” African Proverb

Back up to Wanale-

Carlos, Carolina, and I headed back up the mountain to Wanale clinic -Thursday (behind on posting)

The drive up through the lush fertile jungle gives me a  sense of calm. We drove through the vast untouched mountains, filled with sounds, creatures, waterfalls, smells only an unindustrialized nation could produce. Villagers wave and smile while yelling Jambo! ( Swahili) The Land Rover we drive up is a familiar sight to them now. This terrain is starting to feel like home.  If anything will make you a raging environmentalist,  it’s spending time in places like this.  Environmental degradation seems almost non-existent on this land, except for the burning of trash. This natural growth is ‘currently’ free from exploitation, development and modern amenities.  The villagers huts are elemental. No electricity is brought up the mountain, and the result is endless beauty that I will deeply miss.  I’m already anticipating my last ride up here as a very emotional day.

The malnutrition program has been approved for Wanale, but the funding will not come through till later this week. Hopefully.  We started assessing families anyway and followed them back to their homes to get a better understanding of the whole picture. I saw a woman walking down the road heading for the clinic with a baby and a young girl.  From the instant I saw this young woman walking down the mountain, i felt some connection to her. She has an infectious smile and an innocence you just want to know.

She brought a child in with Malaria symptoms. I’m trying to gather information from her while Robert ( medical officer) helps me translate. She did not know the birth dates or ages of most of her children. I’m finding this to be common. I find out after relentless questioning the child she brought to the clinic is not even hers. She is raising three children from a women who left them, and three of her own. She is 18. From the looks of the little girl she brought in we assumed the others were malnourished. We followed her home.  As we suspected, the children were very badly malnourished and one of the boys has been paralyzed for the last three years. No one seemed to know why, Polio is a guess. I’m assuming he sits in the hut mostly. He has never been seen by any doctors. His crutches were made out of wood, he can no longer use them he is so weak. He will need  food, a diagnosis, rehabilitation, and a wheelchair at the very least. These illnesses are so easily avoidable, it’s hard to see them left untreated.

She has a small plot of land and only grows maize. This has been their only diet. Maize here is hard and dry. I can hardly eat it, let alone fathom eating it everyday. Of course questions flood my mind– why is she only growing corn on her fertile land when they are starving? I’m trying to remember farming 101.  Eventually, Kissito will implement an agricultural program. You need to teach a man how to fish. The end goal is to help  support  the villagers to enhance the status of food security through training in agricultural practices, provision of seeds, animal breeds etc. We have a plot of land and seeds to start, but finding funding and staff is a never-ending process. Here is a local organization that teaches community supported agriculture.

Her child tested negative for Malaria. Although the microscope lens was broken, so the medical officer could not get an accurate read on her blood. Same story different clinic. Lack of basic equipment. He medicated her anyway, and her newborn got vaccinated.  We now know where she lives and will go back Thursday to deliver food. Eventually, she will be part of the education program in agriculture. Carolina and I are trying to get Dr Sabiti up the mountain to diagnose the young boy so we can get him transferred to some type of rehabilitation program. There we can be somewhat assured he’ll be fed and at least gain strength to heal.

She kept grabbing my hand and calling me Auntie. I stayed with her the entire day, she felt my devotion. I kept slipping her all my power bars. I don’t even know if they’ll eat them. I’m gonna make sure she does not slip through the cracks. Imagine her surprise walking to the doctors to help her child and by chance we were there in that exact moment to rescue her family. This luck will most definitely change their lives forever. When i saw her walking and smiling earlier, she had no idea – she asked for nothing. I can’t describe the look of hope on her face when we walked her home with food and told her we’ll be back.  And, we will.
We headed further up the mountain. The fog covering the peaks remind me of the city. We started hiking through the coffee plantations toward a home of a women we are supposed to deliver more food too. She is about to give birth. Her husband left her and the children with nothing. We made arrangements for our midwife to keep an eye on her till labor.  As the common saying around here is “To be a pregnant women in Africa, is to have one foot in the grave.” Maternal death here is devastatingly common. She was kneeling to us-a sign of respect. If she were to die, three more children would be orphans. We’ll make sure that won’t happen. We hiked back through the hills toward our car.

Ah, Ugandan coffee plantations. The workers passed on the hillside carrying burlap sacs of beans on their heads. The air was cool and crisp as the mist hovered around the fields. A nice reprieve from the heat.  Carlos and Carolina are making their way to the car.  I’m falling behind as I keep stopping to capture this place with my camera…


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