Runs big and small rumble as EastAfrican sees big day

Sunday November 24 2019


By Bernard Tabaire

Even where the State works efficiently, there is always room for private citizens and entities to chip in to improve an aspect of the community. Elsewhere they do dinners. In Uganda, it appears, we love to run.

And so the annual MTN Kampala Marathon is on today. More than 20,000 runners and walkers are likely to participate. The atmosphere is always fun and convivial. Behind all that is a serious purpose. The billion-plus shillings to be raised will go toward improving maternal health care in several districts.

For the 16th edition, the marathon has pulled in some heavyweight corporate support from entities such as Stanbic, Huawei, and Vision Group.
It is, however, not the only effort in town targeting maternal health. In fact, whereas the MTN marathon has supported a range of causes over the years, there is an initiative in town focused entirely on maternal health.

On December 7, the third BSK Muyenga Community Run will take place under the unambiguous tagline of “safe childbirth for all”. It is an initiative of the teachers and parents of the Muyenga-based British School of Kampala (BSK) in partnership with the NGO Women’s International Maternal Aid and the Rotary Club of Kisugu-Victoria View.

At the minimum, it hopes to raise Shs55 million to buy maternity equipment for the clinic in Nsambya Police Barracks. The clinic does not charge for its services and could do with a boost. Proceeds from the first two runs supported maternal health at Kisugu HCIII and Wentz Medical Centre, both in Makindye Division as well.

This year, children are paying Shs15,000 and adults Shs25,000 to participate in the run or walk or both covering several distances — 5km, 10km and 15km. The event will set off at 7.30am from the secondary wing of BSK on Lubbobbo Close. Participants will traverse Kisugu, Namuwongo, Kibuli and Muyenga neighbourhoods.


Corporate sponsors are most welcome.
The big deal is that the number of women dying “due to pregnancy related complications during pregnancy, delivery or 42 days after delivery of a child” is high in Uganda compared to many other countries. This is what they mean when they say Uganda’s maternal mortality rate stands at more than 400 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Besides, for every woman who dies under these circumstances, “at least six survive with chronic and debilitating ill health”.

You may say that most of these women don’t go to hospital to give birth. Maybe, but the Uganda Bureau of Statistics reports that the “facility based maternal mortality for 2016/17 was 148 death per 100,000 health facility deliveries, this is an increase from 119 recorded in 2015 /16”. This means that some (probably most) of the health facilities are not where they should be in equipment and staff.

Sometime a woman is damned when she tries to give birth at home and is equally damned when she visits a health facility. Now you know why the police clinic in Nsambya, at the very least, should get equipment like a stainless steel delivery bed, a stainless steel trolley for appliances, a major delivery instrument set, a portable diagnostic ultrasound system — and on and on.

Away from childbearing women, Friday was 25 years since the birth of The EastAfrican newspaper. This was a visionary idea by the Nation Media Group, also owner of Monitor, where I worked for a dozen years.

The paper hit the stands a year after the signing of the Agreement for the Establishment of the Permanent Tripartite Commission for East African Co-operation, which would lead to the revival of the East African Community in 1999.

There has always been something interesting to read in the regional weekly, its Kenya-centric bend notwithstanding. It has done an especially good job covering business trends in the region. But it could go a little deeper to offer nuance and explore the political economy of things more often.

The other thing this avid reader and fan would be happy to see is a regular feature on how different communities in East Africa actually live life. What is that unique thing that makes the Chaga breathe? How about the Kisi? How about the Twa? And the Iteso? And the Nuer? Something comprehensive, textured, and less stilted. This can be the stuff of business, after all.

It is a pity the newspaper’s big day comes amidst a chill in relations amongst member-states of the EAC. But, again, that is the story The EastAfrican was born to cover in all its manifestations.
Long live.

Bernard Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala.