Bad roads breaking our backs, residents cry out

A makeshift bridge on River Mubuku in Busongora County South in Kasese District. PHOTO/ ALEX ASHABA

What you need to know:

Residents in Kasese District say they now have to carry expectant mothers on stretchers because of poor road infrastructure.

Ms Elizabeth Kabugho, 43, a resident of Mbunga village in Mbunga sub-County, went into child labour unexpectedly.

Her life was in danger because there were no available means of transport to reach Kilembe Hospital, the nearest facility.

 The hospital is about 15 kilometres from her home.

As a last option, she was carried on a stretcher by good Samaritans to deliver her fifth child.

“It was around 4pm when I started experiencing labor pains because I was planning to slope to the low land near Kilembe Hospital to wait for my delivery date. I don’t know whether I miscalculated but I was about to die from home,” recalls Ms Kabugho.

She added: “I will never forget that day in my life and I thank the three men whom my elder son called and they quickly came along with a stretcher and carried me to Kilembe Hospital. I kept on thinking that I would fall off the stretcher because it was my first time to use it. But I kept praying to God so that I reach safely.’’

Ms Kabugho did not pay the three men who carried her to the hospital because the community resolved to offer these services for free.

Her story is not any different from that of Ms Jane Muhindo, 33 from Kibandama Sub-county.

She was also carried on a stretcher to Kilembe Hospital to deliver last November.

“My home is located in a mountainous area and there was no way a vehicle or motorcycle could reach there. The only option is to be carried on a stretcher up to the health facility.  It is normal because we have seen pregnant women and even patients being carried on stretchers,” she said.

Ms Muhindo said women who refuse to be carried on stretchers, end up delivering with the help of traditional birth attendants at home.

It is common to see men carrying expecting women on stretchers in sub-counties located in the mountainous areas of Kilembe, Kisinga, Kitholhu, Mbunga, Kyarumba, Mahango, Buhuhira and Maliba.

To access most villages, those with cars park them at Bulembia Division headquarters, Kasese municipality, and walk or hire motorcycles which also move short distances.

The roads in a sorry state include Nyabirongo-Busyangwa, Kamahanga-Busine/Muyina, Kamaghobe-Bughema, Nsenyi-Kalingwe and Kiburara-Kyondo.

To avoid last minute blues, some expecting mothers, who want to deliver in health facilities located in the lowlands, usually relocate when they clock seven months.

For instance, expectant mothers who want to deliver at Kagando Hospital pay Shs40, 000 per month to rent a small room.

However, the village chairpersons have ensured there are at least three locally-made stretchers are available for health-related emergencies.

Each pregnant woman is escorted by 10 men or more depending on the distance.

Mr Augustine Kibaba, a resident of Kitholhu village, has been actively involved in carrying of women on stretchers for some time.

He added:  “Our areas are hard to reach and yet our sisters and wives need to be taken to the hospitals to deliver. So we came up with the idea of stretchers. We have saved many lives because of using stretchers.”

Mr Kibaba said they use two wooden sticks with handles and cover the wooden surface with a bedsheet and mat and a patient is fastened onto the stretcher with bedsheets.

“At first, we could rush to carry pregnant women but then we discovered that even other patients need the same swift help, so we started saving their lives too.  It’s now our means of transport because we don’t want to lose any life,” he said.

Mr Kibaba, however, urged the government to consider constructing roads even in mountainous areas to ease access to health and other services in nearby areas.

He said the government should also consider constructing more health centre IIIs

The Kisinga Sub-county Chairman,  Mr Julius Mukeri,  said six to 10 pregnant mothers are carried to deliver in health facilities every month.

“It’s true and shameful in this era to find people are carried on stretchers, we have over 85 kilometers of roads in this sub-county but the majority are impassable most especially during the rainy season,” he said.

Mr Mukeri said since there is no public health facility in the entire sub-county, residents trek up to Nyabirongo health centre III in Kisinga Town council or Kagando Hospital, which are 3 to 5 kilometres from the sub-county.

Long walk

The different sub-counties share public health facilities, with residents trekking more than five kilometres to access services.

In Kitholhu Sub-county in Bukonzo County West the nearest facility is Kitholhu Health Centre III or Bwera General Hospital in Mpondwe Lhubiriha Town Council which is at the border of Uganda and DR Congo and more than 10 kilometres away.

For those in Buhuhira and Maliba sub-counties in Busongora County North, they trek seven kilometres to visit Rwesande Health Centre IV.

In Kilembe and Mbunga sub-counties in Busongora County South, patients walk for 5-7 kilometres to Kalibu Health Centre III or Kilembe Mines Hospital.