As the people of Northern Uganda try to put behind them the LRA war that lasted 2 decades, now comes the nodding disease! Surely this has become overwhelming for my dear sisters and brothers in Kitgum,Pader and Lamwo districts. For lack of a better comparison I choose to use my feelings. This is because by now I would expect our government to have responded more urgently to such issues in this particular region due to bad experiences in the recent past that has left many people vulnerable and in abject poverty.
Nevertheless as a citizen of this country Uganda, I have a part to play.
That is why on the 19th and 20th of May 2012 I was part of a team of Activista volunteers to fundraise for the victims of nodding disease. ActionAid Uganda has joined a campaign led by FIDA and UWONET to support fellow Ugandans affected by the nodding disease in Northern Uganda. Before we could fully engage in the campaign, we had a chance to hear from Sandra from UWONET who has actually been to the affected districts.
In her presentation, she shared with us pictures and realities on the ground. One of the Activista members could not help but shout out in sorrow and astonishment: “it is that bad!” and all Sandra could respond was, “yes it is that bad.” At this point Sandra shared with us an instance when the Member of Parliament Beatrice Awyar visited Kitugum.
On hearing of her presence one of the women carried her child in order to seek help from the Member of Parliament. Unfortunately before she could reach her, the child collapsed and died.
This is the helplessness of many of the mothers to children with nodding disease, they require extra attention and yet they also have to do work like gardening or else the family has not food.
All that coupled with lack of the basic health care services in many of the health centres in the communities, high poverty levels, lack of proper food for proper nutrition and not forgetting that this is a community that is recovering from a war that left many helpless.
About 3,000 Ugandans are reported to be affected by Nodding disease and so far 200(known cases) of children have died since 2009. It is not yet known what the cause of this disease is yet it continues to spread at a fast rate. Despite the fact that the disease has been evident and known since 2003 when the fast cases were reported it’s only about year back that this scourge was given the publicity it now has.
Asked whether I wanted to be part of a campaign to fundraise support for the victims of nodding disease, the Activista spirit in me could not hold back and that was the case with other Activistas. That is how I found myself at Uchumi and Capital shoppers’ supermarkets over the weekend. This time not shopping as might have been the case, but talking to people who came in and out of the stores, about nodding disease, and how they could make a difference in the lives of these children by donating some money that would be used to buy soap, warm clothes for the children or even give the items.
I should say, it was a life changing moment at least for me. Having to talk to people some of whom cared to listen and help, while others did not and were in their comforts zones and did not want any disturbances. It is at this moment that I remembered one particular lesson from my management lecturer. A marketer does not give up. Even when rejected over and over, the end result is to sell the product.
It did not matter how cold a response I got it only made me approach more and more people.
Most importantly, whenever I looked at the picture of Nancy, one of the nodding disease victims, it reminded me that at that moment it did no matter how I felt about insults from some people, but rather how Nancy felt at this moment. And her feeling after she received something small from our efforts and a message that someone out there cares. This was a shared view among the 12 activista members who were at different parts of these supermarkets and it kept us going.
This was the first of the weekends that we were at the various supermarkets and there are two more to go 26thto 27th May and 2nd to 3rd of June before we head off in a caravan to the affected places to hand over the various ideas to the victims of nodding disease
I therefore take this opportunity to call upon everyone out there to join in this cause in supporting the victims of nodding disease could be financially, emotionally, material and also continue to put our government on pressure to take this as a matter of agency.
To the management of Uchumi and Capital shoppers’ supermarkets for giving has space at their premises to support the cause.