Covid-19: The undocumented numbers…

Sunday July 12 2020



Joseph Ochieno

Joseph Ochieno  

By Joseph Ochieno

Earlier this week, I received a video in my inbox shot by a one ‘Aliona Mary’, an alleged Covid-19 patient. Creative, she addressed legislators, Health minister and Mr Museveni.
Among the issues raised were absence of professional and ethical attention by medical staff, lack of essential drugs, water, condition of toilets, proximity of the ward to the mortuary, quality and quantity of food, mixing of women, children and indeed babies and others.
For most Ugandans and, for me who has travelled across the country and is a friend and relative to many in the medical profession; except that the building looks older than 1986, I was not surprised.

But, like my open letter to Mr Museveni a fortnight ago on these pages, I hope the intended recipients of this video have promptly received, watched, absorbed it and hopefully, responded with some visits and actions. Trust me, many Ugandans have watched and absorbed it except, are unable to take action as that’s the job for which the recipients receive their rather generous monthly packages off our exchequer.
Yet – like a prick – it rekindled something else in me. On my birthday last month, I lost my deputy mother, Mama Yakoba. She was my uncle’s wife but, my de facto mother since 1979 when my mother passed on, thanks to the confusion as Idi Amin and his friend Gaddafi were being edged out of Uganda.

I had been alerted of her sickness two days earlier and I immediately arranged for a nurse to attend to her. A fine nurse. The following day, she was taken to Nagongera Dispensary (these days changed to ‘Health Centre’ IV to make it sound posh and healthy), these places. While she briefly breathed hope, on that day, she passed on. It was too late. The poor woman had been struggling for weeks but guess what?
These days a feeling of headache causes the immediate reaction of; ‘have I got money to buy the tablets/medicine, can I afford a journey to the clinic, and the nurses and doctors, and what about the facilities… in fact, what if one is admitted to hospital and worse, what if transferred to Tororo or, UPC-built Busolwe; what about the cost of X-rays and those tests…?’ These immediate questions.

While these questions would be secondary in mama’s case as – thankfully – I can fully afford, the psyche of everyone is now tuned to exactly that including in this case her grandchildren whose immediate thoughts many times included whether or not they could afford Shs500 to send text messages, never mind OTT. Tragic. And there is something else, the culture of me, myself and I; it would never happen in my time – hardly 35 years ago, UPE for you.

As if to confirm everything else, the day after I got the Buddu-Masaka video a very close person – with all the money within reason in Kampala – attended a medical facility and, was advised not once but twice, that all was well. That afternoon, a life changing incident occurred.
Something is grossly wrong in this country; broken (Psalm: 80:12-13), yet we seem to perfect the saying: ‘the ignorance of the oppressed is the strength of the oppressor’.
On Wednesday, presidential hopeful Gen Henry Tumukunde told Salt TV that Kizza Besigye won the 2016 elections. On the same day, I watched ‘legal’ and ‘power to the people’ arguments against postponing the 2021 elections and I wondered, which people, which law and which elections took Mr Museveni to State House in 1986? Wake up, Ugandans, wake up.

The writer is former columnist with New African Magazine and former UPC spokesperson Jop3upc@yahoo.co.uk

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