16.06.2011 - 16.06.2011 27 °C
16th June 2011, back in Uganda.
We spend the day in Bwaise Slum with AFFCAD (Action For Fundamental Change and Development), a small community based charity fighting HIV and poverty in Uganda. Housing over 30,000 people, Bwaise, is one of the most deprived areas in Kampala. Over 70% of the people here have AIDS. There's no clean water and residents face a constant threat of floods, damaging homes and contaminating what little water there is.
We spend some time learning about AFFCAD and the valuable work they do, before taking a walk around Bwaise. Our first stop is a school where the children come out to greet us. We take a look around the empty classrooms, admiring lesson plans and educational posters that hang on the walls. These range from labelling parts of the human anatomy, to strong messages about not being pressurised into sex.
Women are the breadwinners in Bwaise, often enduring backbreaking work to produce anything they can trade. We meet a woman who takes us into her home and introduces us to her family. Her, her son, and two daughters are all HIV positive. A widow, she brings up the children herself. During the day, she stays at home so she can look after her two daughters whom she cannot afford to send to school. During the night, she sells sweets to cars on the highway that intersects Bwaise. She manages to earn enough money to keep her son at school but dreams of sending her daughters.
70% of people living here, have AIDS, and many of them are just school children. Anti-retrievals are available free of charge, but the walk to the medical centre to collect them is long, and often requires a morning out of school. The drugs are helping though: children are able to return to school and integrate socially. Sadly, however, children on anti-retrievals are often in better health than those living without AIDS.
Many of the men in Bwaise lead a different life. Resided to extreme poverty, they spend their days in the bars that fill the corner of the slum. Our guide takes us there. Huts, with just a curtain to cover them, fill both sides of the path in front of us. As we pass by one, a rumble of laughter comes from inside. Late at night, when the men stumble out onto the street, prostitutes line up to entice them. I'm told that prostitution here is a choice. It's quite simply, a means of survival. As we leave the bars, and enter the prostitute area, large painted signs hang overhead warning of the perils of not using adequate protection. The sad truth, however, is that protection is not readily available, nor is the education that is desperately needed to go along side it.
Around another corner, we enter the dangerous part of the slum. Even our guides will not venture here at night. We've come to see an orphanage. Most of the children who live here are baby girls, abandoned because their family cannot afford to keep them. We spend some time here watching the children. A child, not yet old enough to walk, sits with a rounded belly and a tear stained face. Flies buzz around him, and the sadness in his eyes is heartrending. We give them some bags of rice, but we know it won't be enough.