In a chronic state of mourning

flower18News of a celebrity mother in Uganda losing her only son to asthma yesterday morning came on the fresh heels of another celebrity losing her grandchild to a road traffic accident involving a boda-boda.  However this was not the end of such tragic and unnecessary loss of lives to be reported out of the country to come about as a result of inability by citizens to address the causes and take on a proactive approach to limit such occurrences from staying as normality.

What strikes me in this tragic end to a life so young is the issue of a child having to be flown from Uganda to the neighbouring country, Kenya, to seek medical attention for a medical condition such as asthma or complications arising from poor management of this chronic ailment.  Unless there were already pre-existing medical conditions and for which this child was under a specialist(s) care in Kenya, I am left wondering what this has to say for the paediatric care of chronic medical conditions within Uganda in general for persons who can ill-afford being flown out of the country.

At what point will persons/citizens that are educated, financially well-off and/or powerful politically; be able to wake up to investing in the domestic healthcare such that they don’t need to fly out their loved ones abroad for treatment?  With the outpouring of cash donations in condolences, perhaps it is time to revise what such donations could be worth spent on with the aim of long term and sustainable benefit for many.

The issue of poor delivery of healthcare has been lamented on for years albeit some individuals have privately tried to address this and recently more so the funds coming in from WHO will address aspects of this.  The challenge remains three-fold; from the mentality of those that end up requiring the services, those that are employed or tasked to deliver, coupled with insincerity of government political will to regulate this sector transparently at both local and national levels.

We have hospitals (Uganda) built from our colonial past that are not fit for purpose, in deplorable conditions both for those carrying out care management and for those being admitted to receive care. It is true there are building new health centres but the problem of salaries and missing medication that should be given at nominal costs keeps rearing its ugly head…however this is development that keeps my spirits up.

It is definitely to be commended that there are young persons like Esther and Sheila on ground in Kampala who are taking to being proactive in doing what they can to bring about positive change.    Perhaps these actions can be emulated elsewhere in the country by other communities.

Even in developed countries, communities/individuals/private organisations carry out fundraising activities to support local and foreign charities.  Donations do not necessary have to be in monetary terms – volunteers can offer their skills and times to clean up or assist target areas where needed.

The issue of the road traffic accidents and the ensuing loss of lives or injuries sustained is one I’ve had to hand over to the gods!  For they alone can take pity and remove whatever is clogging the minds of every person who assumes they have right of way and urgency to reach their destination by any means necessary whenever they get inside a vehicle or any kind, and hit speeds only rockets vie for.

This complacency in accepting poor practice and relinquishing responsibility over our own contribution to what sustains such unacceptable practice needs to stop…like yesterday.

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Burying our heads in the sand with regards to Namungoona Fuel tanker

Saturday 29th June 2013 brought what is possibly the worst fuel tanker to occur on Ugandan soil.

In the relative quiet of the night, residents of Namungoona, a Kampala suburb, familiar with the croaks of frogs in Lubigi marshland and occasional raving from engines of vehicles firing on the Northern Bypass, were audience to a tragic occurence. On Saturday night, it was a macabre unraveling of tragedy.
Fueltanker01

Several fatalities consisting of boda-boda riders. PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE

To me this occurrence and the ensuing reactions from all corners (accident, response or lack/limited of emergency services or first aiders etc…) did not come as a surprise. What was perhaps the redeeming fact, was the number of fatalities.  This was an ‘accident’ among so many to unravel, waiting to happen.  It  is only by God’s grace and alertness that the numbers were not much higher.

Police officers check burnt motorcycles at the scene of the accident on the Northern Bypass yesterday. PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE

Police officers check burnt motorcycles at the scene of the accident on the Northern Bypass. PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE

Cars and vehicles burn in Ecatepec, Mexico

Scene of aftermath shortly after tanker exploded

At around 22.00hrs (GMT) an online status from one of my acquaintance raised the developing tragedy. Yet all the main media channels in Uganda were either preoccupied with foreign news on Obama’s Africa visit, issues in Syria, or entertainment coverage of the BET awards etc. In fact my online social network acquaintance recorded as the president being abroad in Tanzania without any indication of him flying in to check out the developing tragedy.

Prez M7 at scene of accident

President Museveni at the scene of accident at Namungoona on Monday 1st July. PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE

PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE The President soon put to rights this PR setback.  Shortly not long after the tragic events, not only did he visit the accident scene, but went to the national hospital offering 5million UGX to relatives of the deceased to cover funeral costs… It was tweeted that the fuel tanker collided head on with a Toyota Ipsum before overturning and falling causing people to rush to the scene for free fuel.  Most of these young boda-boda transporters had turned up to make good the flow of “free” fuel from the stricken tanker are believed to be the fatalities because the fuel tanker burst  into flames burning them all. On count, over 30 boda-bodas were burnt during the inferno. Residents say they were carrying people who had stopped to collect the fuel tweeted Sms media Uganda Sunday morning.

aftermath of the explosion

aftermath of the explosion

The fact that the online community is what availed most of us far afield to learn about this tragic event is perhaps an indication of perceived priority of the government media organs on ground. Same goes to factor for the limited if not reserved response by the emergency services in the country…if at all they exist. The ensuing reaction of the public to this tragedy on a background of President Museveni’s 5million pledge to relatives of the deceased is perhaps what has prompted me to make sense of this.  There is way too many questions on my part to be caught up in the emotional reactions to the tragedy that unraveled. First of all, I recall from past experience road safety and regulations in Uganda. This is simply a joke.  Whereas some eye witness accounts have gone to state that the explosion occurred after the tanker went off the road, the way most road users in Uganda behave when driving is perhaps an indicator of such pending tragedies. Fact being that lack of lighting on roads at night, combined by the reckless attitude of most road users, especially those in large vehicles like lorries/trailers is a recipe for disasters such as these.  I know. I almost got run off the road by a huge trailer on Bombo Road at night, the driver who even when we took recording of his driving and registration details, didn’t seem perturbed. People drive recklessly to get to their destination completely oblivious to other road users – if at all, not even give a damn. Most often its persons who consider themselves more important human beings to others, that sets precedence. The response of Uganda’s emergency services to scenes of accidents is questionable…the methodology of ferrying victims to the only national hospital is almost a certifiable death sign-off.  Assuming they make it and survive the limited resources met out at the national hospital.  In this incident especially, persons with burns are most likely to die from secondary infections they will acquire at the hospital. Traffic police in Uganda seem to have differing priorities to their allocated job.  They have bursts of action dependent on time of day or seasonal demands… most often  more concerned with collecting kintu kidogo than enforcing traffic regulations.

scene of namungona post accident

Recovered boda-bodas of fatalities from the explosion

From the emotional reaction to the death toll, one could be excused for blaming poverty as the cause of the young persons who rushed to siphon fuel from the tanker. Truth be said, these persons were hoping to get free fuel that they hadn’t paid for from an unfortunate occurrence to the tanker driver. It is debatable they were willing to listen to the tanker driver warning them to stop… Yet society is excusing these victims’ actions on poverty, yet again reinforcing the conciliatory acceptance of corrupt practice that has become so endemic that most don’t even recognize it anymore when practiced. Issues then become politicized because persons have failed to take personal responsibility and ownership of their collective actions, often opting to apportion blame or scapegoating, and/or exploiting;  whichever suits their perception or political affiliation.  Resulting in shelving/staving off the implementation of any beneficial suggestions that could redress the causes or issues. Bottom line is – the current governance in place is to blame for failure to: empower citizens to make the appropriate choices in fighting the moral decline in society; failure to sensitize citizens  to have faith in the judicial and legislative system which for the greater part functions on selective mode for the elite citizens,  whilst exploiting the ignorance that surrounds most practice that has come to be acceptable. God really loves Uganda and it’s only when He is distracted or blinks that such tragic incidents occur.