2000s >> 2001 >> no-1163-june-2001

The Life of a Common Ugandan

The treatment of diseases is by native and modern medicine. The native medicine involves drugs extracted from parts of plants and or animals. They are in powder, liquid or cream forms and can be applied externally or taken orally. Most common diseases here are infectious diseases such as dysentery, malaria and typhoid. Others include pulmonary tuberculosis and cholera. The prevention is not successful, because of lack of information and education involving the diseases, lack of proper hygiene.

When such cases appear, patients are either taken to local herbalists or to health units. The patients are carried on stretchers made locally. For cases of pregnant women, some complications are always encountered at birth such as excessive bleeding or “stillbirth” due to delayed surgical operations on the expectant mother. People have fear of undergoing operations for fear of dying during the operation from technical, operational or surgical problems.

Treatment is not always easily accessible by the poor who have problems of payment of the medical fees that are now charged in all health institutes be they private or public. In the public health institutes it is charged in the name of cost-sharing. Some get the medical bills when it is already too late for their ailments to be handled and consequently death follows. Some of these ailments come from poor diets and feeding habits. It is common to find people eating and drinking from the same utensils. Drinking local brews using natural straws which are shared being an example of one of the causes of TB.

Few people have a reasonable education say beyond primary level and this renders them unable to read or listen to educational materials and programmes. Income is on average about 50 pence per day per adult person. Also there are poor or no communication facilities to deliver urgent information in case of emergencies. People have to travel long distances (say 12km) on foot before they can reach the nearest health facilities. This is because there are either no transport facilities (with no roads) or the person involved is unable to pay for them.

In some cases such poor people are facilitated by paying in kind by way of doing manual work at the health institutes when they have completely recovered or it can be done by their friends or relatives on their (patients’) behalf.

Women are commonly seen having over eight children as they rarely apply family planning methods or due to religious indoctrination, especially the catholics and the moslems.


Because families are always big they end up being overcrowded in their grass-thatched houses built out of mud and wood. There is rarely any ventilation. This accelerates health problems.

Because of poverty doctors are compelled to sometimes only handle the symptoms of the disease not the disease itself for the patient may be able only to afford payment of the former rather than the latter.

It is also common to find people living with domestic animals such as goats, sheep, rabbits and hens.

High blood pressure, diabetes and cancer are referred to as the diseases of the rich. This is not because they only involve in rich people but because the poor die of them without ever having them diagnosed because of the expenses involved.

Pit latrines are used to substitute toilets and in overcrowded villages and town slums, such latrines are used by more than one family. Consequently there arises associated sanitation problems and rarely do such families co-operate successfully to maintain such facilities. Water to drink and for household use is always fetched from running streams and wells which also serve domestic animals.

Such water is always drunk without even being boiled because of fuel problems as firewood, which is the main fuel source, is becoming scarce.

As most houses are not cemented there is an infinite scourge of dust, which contributes to respiratory problems. With this dust there is the associated problems of jiggers (sand fleas). In fact recent press reports had it that from one individual over 400 jiggers were extracted from his extremities.

Notwithstanding all these health evils, there’s also the AIDS scourge that is “harvesting” the population in its thousands. AIDS has also affected the social-economic situation of the common Ugandan in that there are orphans who end up in towns as street kids. Also the number of widows and widowers there are has increased and people are burdened by the attention and care given to their terminally-ill friends and relatives.

Rarely do people undergo any medical examinations except only when they are compelled to do so, when say going abroad, so as to know their medical status.


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