04 Oct A Day in My Diary!
Today I woke up in a tent, stiff from the hard bed and cold from Rwamwanja’s chilly morning. Rwamwanja is a remote village located in the beautiful rolling hills of Nkoma Parish in Kamwenge District located in South Western Uganda.
I proceeded to pick a bucket of ice-cold water and took a quick bath in theshared make-shift bathroom. I had to borrow slippers since I forgot to pack mine.
We arrived in Rwamwanja last evening having travelled 150 km from my base in Mbarara town. On arrival, we headed straight to the refugee settlement located in Kamwenge District.
This experience was not new since part of my work includes monitoring health and nutrition activities in 6 locations in the South Western region. The nearest location from my base is 70 km while the farthest is in Kisoro about 250 km on Uganda, DRC and Rwanda Borders. Accommodation is usually a challenge since refugee settlements are located in remote locations. Situations sometimes demand sharing of rooms and far flung pit latrines.
For this mission I was joined by my assistant and a UNHCR colleague from Kampala. We had planned to review the AHA’s(African HumanitarianAction) health delivery activities following reported challenges. So by 8.00am I was ready to get to work after a quick cup of “dry tea” (as is the common reference to black tea in Uganda) and a piece of cassava.
On the way to the meeting point I passed near the OPM Office which brought back sad memories of what had happened at a nearby location a year ago. By then I was a member of the joint multifunctional team (OPM/UNHCR/Implementing Partners). We were charged with the responsibility of assessing the new location for settling the Refugees from DRC. Unknown to us some of the local population viewed our mission as a threat to their livelihood.
In a flash they descended upon part of our team with stones, whips and other crude weapons. The local commandant was seriously injured and although I gave him first aid at the nearest health centre and quickly referred him to fort Portal Regional Hospital, he succumbed to the injuries later that day. Our other colleague was admitted in hospital for a month. As a result, the settlement is still under 24 hour surveillance manned by 200 policemen and women.
Anyhow, we finally arrived at the AHA Health Centre and divided up into 3 groups; my group was assigned the role of checking the health equipment inventory, monitoring the ongoing construction at the facility and draft a site plan to include future expansion of the facility.
At 1100hrs I received a call from the District Health Officer (DHO) reminding me about the draft Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) that we had discussed earlier. I updated her on the progress. I also seized this opportunity to advocate for more district support for the AHA activities and reminded her about the health coordination meeting planned for the next day. She requested me to resend the minutes of the previous meeting claiming not to have received the first ones.
We broke off for a quick lunch. I had hoped to access the internet before the afternoon session, however I was informed that internet access can only accessed at night when the generator is switched-on. In addition there is only one internet modem which had to be shared. I quickly booked to be the first in the queue. But that was never to be since the day mission progressed on until late in the evening. I only managed to access internet half an hour before the generator was turned off for the night. To make matters worse, the signals were poor and the lap top too slow! I handed it back in frustration.
At 2130hrs I located a specific tree in the UNHCR tented base where phone signals are said to be good and called home. Speaking to my family made me forget about my hardships that day and reminded me of how fortunate I am to have loved ones that I could call and chat with about my day. The people in the refugee settlement have been through so much and here I was complaining about slow laptops and poor internet connections! I was jolted back to reality and my passion for what I do was fueled once again.
It is now 2230hrs and as I lay in my bed and reflect upon my day, I know I shall raise up and face tomorrow with even more courage.…..