The challenge in staying positive amid such negativity

“When somethings go wrong, take a moment to be thankful for the many more things that are still going right.”  Anne Gottlier

Well, when I first read Anne Gottlier on one of my positive affirmation mantras, I had difficulty scanning her.  It’s like I have a huge stone blocking me from seeing anything that is still going right.

Earlier this week on Monday, I read something in a Ugandan newspaper, New Vision that truly made my blood curl…literally. However any emotions that came after reading this article were driven by the lack of reaction, the indifference or should I say apathy; from persons on ground in Uganda, both general public or government officials and respective opposition political party members.  Interestingly, political opposition members are often quick on the mark to use all given opportunities to politicize most issues that arise, pending or past.

The article in question that left me dumbfounded was about the state of Uganda’s blood transfusion services.  An audit done in 2012 had found that most of the nation’s blood supply had been unfit for use. In brief it was contaminated/rotten with visible maggots photographed in some of the stored hospital batches.  In actual fact, there had been cited reports that large numbers of persons had died due to lack of blood.  What the authorities failed to say was that the state of storage or even collection services in the country were part of the problem. It wasn’t that there were short on blood donors, but that rather, the equipment for collection and storage was not fit for purpose.  Like most things and equipment within Uganda’s health infrastructure.

This is a country which has a national hospital Mulago, that is a certifiable place for death. This is not because the staff are incapable of carrying out their profession (although some persons might argue this point too!) but rather it is down to the complete lack of maintenance of existing mostly, colonial equipment and lack of government’s health ministry’s  serious investment in this only national hospital. Medicines and some equipment are siphoned and diverted in to privately run businesses – a regular occurrence which is well known and appears to be condoned by all.  I guess this is why nobody in government or otherwise, was moved to comment or even come out publicly to allay the Ugandan public over what should have been a grave discovery from the auditors.

Life goes on, other issues get fed to the news reel and this becomes just another incident that is part and parcel of life in Uganda’s chaotic and seriously fragmented infrastructure.  Where Uganda is concerned, it is really challenging to look for things that are still going right when sitting on the knowledge that if you happen to be in the country and suffer an accident that requires you to get emergency treatment, you are well and truly screwed and nobody gives a damn.

But one thing that seems to bring all out to feel the need to associate to fame is when an athlete goes on to win a gold medal. That is something worth convening over to even call upon for all to donate generously towards.  Do not get me wrong, I am happy for this athlete and do not in any way begrudge him his time on the podium. I am just disappointed that such national sense of pride cannot be directed towards building and maintaining her health infrastructure to serve her populace.  Instead, those that can afford will seek to use national coffers to get medical treatment abroad when needed and this becomes routine.

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Where and when did humanity depart?

I am compelled to write this simply out of human empathy towards the injustice done by fellow humans towards each other in our everyday lives without even pausing to spare a thought of consideration for the effects of our actions.

In the early hours of Monday morning, around 3am, a pregnant female tourist from Spain sought to find directions to a public toilet within Hammersmith bus station. Now this is a bus station that is in operation 24hrs a day, 7 days a week. I am presuming the staff within this bus station are not on a voluntary basis nor positioned there as prisoners of war. They are paid to offer customer service to users of the bus services which are running through their premises. You could be pardoned for thinking this is not the case.

Yet this pregnant female tourist upon alighting at Hammersmith bus station to connect sought to use the public toilet facilities before continuing on her journey, but instead was rudely escorted to board her connecting bus. To make matters worse, the station supervisor on duty who did this to her was a fellow female. Ironically it was a male bus driver who took pity on her situation after observing her distress while on board and stopped the bus for her to find a suitable place to relieve herself.

Now I know there often is office politics in most work settings, but seriously when persons lose the ability to carry out a service they are in a paid position to do, it really gets my goat! Irrespective of how tired the supervisor may/may not have been, when did her humanity depart from her soul?

I implore Transport for London executives to please look in to the customer care service of your staff on ground because it is really leaving much to be desired for the general public who pay to use your amenities/services and instead are left frustrated on many levels. The lack of access to public toilet facilities is a poor show to visitors who come to London but also it encourages anti-social acts when persons seek to relieve themselves on streets etc… which can result into public health issues.

What happened to this woman at Hammersmith bus station was completely unacceptable and should not be allowed to be the norm.

One common theme that binds

For the last 7 days, I have been in mourning whilst trying to adhere to the medical advice given me on resting. Sunday 11th July brought the realities of international conflict home to fellow Ugandans and visitors alike. It was a night when most persons had settled down in to the spirit of the closing final football game to the first world cup to be hosted on African soil. The world cup in itself had provided its very own surprises, but much more lasting pain was to be visited upon the residents of Kampala.

In the minutes leading up to extra-time, I received news of the bomb attack at the Kyaddondo Rugby club and at the Ethiopian Village eatery. Not being familiar with either places, I sought clarification in a bemused manner hopping it was a hoax. The phone lines became jammed at this point and I checked the net instead. To my sadness, it proved to be a reality – bombs had gone off and lives had been losts with many injured not getting the rapid emergency help they needed not being able to get through. My medical background took hold and soon I was looking at ways of alerting persons on the ground I knew could be able to assist if they hadn’t already been called upon. The frustration on my part was in knowing so many injured could be helped but the resources and infrastructure was not in place. This frustration soon gave way to anger – why would a developing country like Uganda engage in situations such as the resulting attacks without having adequate cover? The emergency services in place were already pitiful and the nation’s medical system was just about equivalent to a band-aid. For months if not years, the medical service industry has been labouring for more resources and is heavily reliant on donations and charity. The local fire service is virtually non-existent and the police force, save for the top cream is poorly equipped to even handle an immediate crime scene without evidence being corrupted be it knowingly or unknowingly! So the anger in me rose at the very persons in governance for endangering the lives of innocent civilians by opting to engage without proper assessment or planning in issues that have fatal consquences on the security of her people. I had to work hard at remembering I’m on bed rest and shouldn’t allow myself to get over-excited! So I opted to keep myself to what I could do in support of the persons on ground affected by the bombings. But like a child that is fed after a bout of incessant crying – it was hard to focus on the support without the occasional grumblings…

Reflecting back over the loss of lives, injuries and reasons or solutions to what transpired, my mind drifted to the other side of the coin. The thoughts or reasons as to why these persons opt to carry out such devastating acts on others. I recalled an article way back in April 2003 just before Saddam’s regime came to an end and a boy of 12 was orphaned following a shelling of his shack of a home by our Allied armies. Or the continued war in Afghanistan that is affecting countless civilians where the body count is no longer mentioned unless it involves one of our own soldiers here that we know of. Nor of the continued suicide bombings in Pakistan, India and Iraq which still rage – innocent lives continue to be claimed. This is the common theme that binds all of us caught up in this madness of point scoring using arms. Innocent lives are the gambling chips – they are the soft targets of politics.

How befitting therefore would a statement such as this be?
“When people decry civilian deaths caused by the U.S. government, they’re aiding propaganda efforts. In sharp contrast, when civilian deaths are caused by bombers who hate America, the perpetrators are evil and those deaths are tragedies.
When they put bombs in cars and kill people, they’re uncivilized killers. When we put bombs on missiles and kill people, we’re upholding civilized values. When they kill, they’re terrorists. When we kill, we’re striking against terror.” Norman Solomon, “Orwellian Logic 101 – A Few Simple Lessons,” at FAIR: http://www.fair.org/media-beat/980827.html

I don’t condone the acts of those who took away lives of innocent young persons in last Sunday’s attack in the twin bombing strike – indeed, I’ve lost friends and associates in these incidents who were very instrumental to some of the causes I greatly admire. I do implore the Ugandan leader however to put humanity first when making decisions that could have a far deeper detrimental effect on her young developing nation. If not for him, then for his grandchildren he should act; for his legacy is one that will stand to mark his position in history. The challenges Uganda faces are many already – without taking on more armed conflict whereby her citiziens do not fully comprehend the stakes or even share in the loot. Ugandans have been through so many hells – now that the security afforded through decades of civil wars is in place, it would be great for all her people to enjoy this security in ways that are feasible.

I pray to the gods, that the blood of my three brothers in addition to all their co-patriots in battles fought alongside Mr President in the bush war, that theirs was not just waste.