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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Food in Uganda

Over the past three weeks we have had the chance to experience authentic Ugandan food, as well as some not so Ugandan food I.e. Italian, Chinese and Indian. The main staple we all became very accustom too was Matooke, which is a mashed banana dish (like plantains) that is cooked in banana leaves and served with every meal. The Matooke tastes kind of like chewy mashed potatoes. Served on top of the Matooke was Ground Nut Sauce, otherwise known as G-Nut Sauce. It was a light purple sauce that tasted like peanut butter. Other typical foods you would find in a typical Ugandan meal would be Posho, a white mixture of maize flour and water, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, chicken or beef, broth sauces, rice, Chipati (fried flat bread) and fruit. The fruit in Uganda is some of the tastiest fruit you can have. They specialize in pineapple, watermelon, bananas, passion fruit and jackfruit, just to name a few. Jackfruit is a large green fruit that has a yellow inside with giant seeds, and not to forget a very sweet taste. You're probably wondering whether or not we needed a break from Ugandan food every day while in Kampala, and the answer would be yes. As mentioned earlier we had Italian at Italian Restaurant, Chinese at Arirang and Indian at Phaze 2. All three places let us see what the Ugandan take on these cuisines was like and it was all quite delicious. All in all, the food experience in Uganda has been a tasty one in the food category.

Dancing the Night Away - Kika Center

The weather was perfect for our afternoon and evening at Kika Center. Under the expert direction of the proprietor, Kaddu, the students learned a dance traditional to the Buganda Kingdom. Kika (pronounced Chicha) is a new dance center located in dark green foothills near Entebbe. The setting was perfect as the students learned the movements to a 'dance to make the king happy'. I kept up for about an hour until the jumping moves began. Then I opted for African tea with colleagues while the students continued to refine their moves.

The evening began with a traditional dinner of matooke, rice, ground nut sauce, goat skewers and more. A performance by the Kika dance troupe filled the rest of the evening as the dancers illustrated that 'Uganda is a very big world in a small country'. The highlight for our group was when they were called to the stage, walked behind and emerged as Uganda dancers! They artfully ;-) performed the dance they had practiced so diligently during the afternoon. 

Throughout, Kaddu emphasized the need for Ugandans to preserve their incredible culture. He is doing a great job insuring this will happen! For more information and pictures go to www.kikauganda.com.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mulago Hospital

Our trip to Mulago Hospital, located in Kampala, was one of the most humbling experiences.  Mulago, being one of the largest governmental hospitals in East Africa, showed the desperations for a change in healthcare in the region.  To understand the hospital more we had a tour guide as well as a doctor with us explaining the functions of the hospital.  Since Mulago is a government hospital patients received free care for any type of medical need.  However, individuals who can afford it are given “private” rooms and are given basic amenities with each having a particular cost such as a curtain, water, food, electricity etc.  While going through the different wards we were able to see the overflow of patients and the lack of beds for them/room for family members.  On average each ward has 2 nurses for up to 70 patients at a time.  The lack of staff is due to the government’s unwillingness to give sufficient pay to its employees which is the source of the problems at Mulago.  A lot of this in hand gives way to corruption within the hospital and promotes a terrible environment to receive care.  The entire experience at Mulago made our group realize what some of us take for granted in a hospital and how fortunate we are.  It was extremely eye opening and gave me particularly a new perspective on life.    

Coffee Processing- Savannah Commodities

As coffee is Uganda’s number one export, I was excited to learn more about the coffee process and its place in the market. Today we visited Savannah Commodities—an agriculture trading company the deals mostly with coffee and grains. We were able to look at the process from the cleaning and drying to the sorting of grades for both Arabica and Robusta coffee beans. They explained how they buy from 20,000+ farmers from all over Uganda and also how they sell to world-wide buyers including roaster and coffee shops. Savannah bases its purchasing and selling price platform off the New York market which is what most of the coffee industry does. Because the markets are ever-changing, it often leads to a gamble on whether to buy or sell or to stay idle in day-to-day transactions.  In terms of sustainability, Savannah seemed to be on track, however is the coffee industry truly sustainable or what can be done to insure better sustainability?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Kikandwa Health Clinic

The Kikandwa Health Clinic was a project proposed by village elders in order to meet the medical needs of the Kikandwa community of approximately 100,000 residents. The non-profit clinic will serve common illnesses in the area such as maternity, prenatal care, malaria, diarrhea, and upper respiratory infections as well as providing other basic services. The opening of the health clinic will have the greatest impact on the people of Kikandwa due to increased health care accessibility. With this new clinic, the people of the Kikandwa community will no longer have to travel long distances or become discouraged from seeking medical care due to transportation. The clinic is expecting to serve between 50-100 patients per day and is striving to become an effective and sustainable business model. The facility will initially have a staff of three individuals which includes a midwife, registered nurse and an administrator with the hopes of expanding as project phases for the clinic are completed over time.  This health clinic was made possible by donors such as Drake University, The Rotary Club of Kampala South, and the Shining City Foundation (SCF).

U.S. Embassy

Our stop at the United States Embassy located in Kampala, Uganda was an informative session discussing U.S.– Ugandan relations. At our arrival, we were led through multiple security procedures to ensure the safety of the ambassador and his staff. Unfortunately, because of the extensive security, we were unable to have electronic devices and were prohibited from taking photographs. It was a change of pace to see a westernized building after spending almost two and a half weeks in Ugandan buildings constructed of cement and clay. Nonetheless, the compound was well-manicured representative of the U.S. government. Continuing, we walked to our conference room where we eagerly awaited the arrival of Ambassador Scott DeLisi.

Ambassador DeLisi is currently serving as the ambassador to Uganda and has served as a foreign serviceman for the last 33 years. DeLisi’s talk focused on the struggles that are currently presenting themselves in the relationship between the United States and Uganda. Following the debate and passage of the Anti-homosexuality Act, the relationship has been strained due to the observed human rights violations. 

In addition, the U.S. government has and is currently pouring large amounts of aid into the Uganda healthcare sector but is seeing little effort by the Ugandan government to create a sustainable model to take over the sector and relieve its dependence on foreign aid. In general, the U.S. government seeks to preserve basic human rights around the world and is fulfilling its quest by decreasing HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in Uganda and by investing in the well being of mothers and the circumcision of males. Lastly, Ambassador DeLisi emphasized the difficulty in working with a government that is known for large amounts of corruption. By realizing the corruption within the government, the United States focuses its monetary donations towards organizations. For now, the relationship between the Uganda government of the United States government is being maintained on a friendly level; however, only time will if differing values will jeopardize this relationship.

Mulago Hospital

Today a group of six Drake students had the unique opportunity to visit Mulago Hospital. Located in Kampala, the hospital serves as the main government hospital in Uganda and is the largest hospital in East Africa. The hospital does not charge its patients any money for the services it provides, which can range from treatment for malaria to cesarean sections. The group was lead around by a tour guide and an ear, nose and throat doctor. Some of the notable destinations during the visit were a tour of a general ward and a private ward. A general ward consists of beds stacked next to each, often overflowing into the hallway, with some patients having to lie on mattresses on the floor.  Private rooms, on the other hand, are not as private as one would think and consist of a large room with curtains separating the patients. These rooms also boast a “private” bathroom while patients on the general ward have one large communal bathroom per wing. The tour continued with a viewing of the maternity ward. This ward was a true culture shock as mothers who had just given birth were crowded in one hallway outside sitting on the floor and benches while awaiting to be discharged; only mothers with extreme medical conditions were allowed beds after giving birth.  The group also visited the pediatric unit, which had similar conditions comparable to that of the general ward. Finally, the group was able to walk through the Cancer Institute. Patients were scattered throughout the Institute while the caregivers of the patients were forced to sit outside due to a lack of space. Overall, the experience was very eye-opening and far different than the conditions at Mukono Hospital, which is a much smaller health care center.  The overcrowding of the hospital and the general conditions were the most surprising part of the tour, and provided a stark contrast from health care provided in the United States.  After talking with the ear, nose, and throat doctor at the hospital, it was apparent that a lack of staff was the main problem at Mulago. For example, there are usually only two nurses for up to seventy patients. Furthermore, a career in health care at government run institutions are often not profitably enough to attract newly graduated medical students. In order for hospitals like Mulago to become more sustainable, the understaffing problem must be addressed to meet all the needs of the Uganda citizens.

 [The front entrance of the hospital]

 [The private ward-there were four patients in this room separated by the curtains pictured]

 [The patients laying out laundry; each patient must provide their own bedding while at the hospital]

[The general ward in the pediatric unit; the children had been moved temporarily to clean the ward]

The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO)

Today, we spent our morning at The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO) near Mulago Hospital. TASO, which was formed in 1987, aims to help Ugandans live positively with AIDS and provides services such as counseling, medical services, advocacy, and prevention operations for no cost.
Upon arriving to TASO, we split into two groups and toured the facility. We were very impressed by both the structure number of clients being served – an average of 200 per day! 

Clients Waiting to Be Served Outside TASO Mulago 

During the rest of our tour, we visited the counseling center, medical wing, and pharmacy. We finally ended up at the Children’s Care Centre, where HIV+ and HIV- children wait while their parents are treated. To see these kids interact was incredible  - as one staff member pointed out, we could not tell at first glance which kids had HIV and which did not. This just goes to show that stigma with HIV/AIDS has changed drastically over the past 30 years!
Inside the Children's Care Centre

For many of us, the highlight of our visit to TASO was interacting with the singing/dance troupe. These individuals are all HIV+ and receive services from TASO. Their group performs in villages across Uganda to provide education about HIV. The money the group earns from performing goes to fulfill their basic needs and to support TASO.
Performance Troupe at TASO
The final event of our visit was to hear the testimony of one young woman who has benefitted from TASO’s services. As she described, she became HIV+ after she was raped by a man who had promised to provide her school fees. When she told her employer she was HIV+, she was fired. With TASO’s help, she was able to join the performance group, and has since married a man who is also HIV+. The woman and her husband now have two children together, both of whom do not have HIV! It was amazing to hear how TASO benefits community members.

How do Reach Out Mbuya and The AIDS Support Organisation differ? Is one more effective than the other? What was your favorite part of our visit to TASO?

Monday, June 9, 2014

City Secondary School

Yesterday was a fantastic day in Uganda.  We visited a private boarding school named City Secondary School.  The education system in Uganda varies from the United States, so for clarification think of City Secondary as a combination of junior high and high school.  Everywhere we go in Uganda, we are treated with the uttermost respect and hospitality. This was no different today as we were greeted with traditional dancing and many warm welcomes.  Kasifa, one of the MUBS students, even joined in dancing the Rakaraka.  After the welcome, the head of teachers expressed the challenges City Secondary School faces.  Among one of their challenges is the lack of computers. This year, Drake donated 30 computers, which will tremendously improve the ratio from 1 computer to every 75 students to 1 computer to every 8 students.  This will contribute to City Secondary School's vision of teaching their students the skills they need to not only succeed in their job field, but to become the job creators Uganda needs. They were so grateful, and it really was wonderful to see the students already utilizing the additional computers. 

After the launching of the new computer lab, we split up into discussion groups and each went to a different classroom to interact with the students.  In my group's discussion we learned all about teeth, but eventually we drifted into conversations about future career aspirations, and Facebook (We were in a junior high/high school environment, what more can you expect?) 

I thought the way the desks were labeled looked really cool, so I made Augusta let me take an artsy picture.  (Thank you for modeling, Augs)
We were also given a tour of the grounds, which was really great to see, except I heard some people saw a snake-one that is not alive, just for learning purposes- in one of the rooms, so I missed out on pictures of that (thankfully). 

Finally, we were given the opportunity to interact with the students through sports.  Many students began by playing volleyball, but eventually a soccer match was formed.  This match was only for those who could endure the challenges of a field full of hidden mini swamps.  Needless to say, it was fun being a spectator as many students slipped and slided every other step.  Drake/MUBS was the victor after a nail biter shoot out.

Overall, it was a great day learning about the school, the students, and ourselves in the process.