ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

Updates for June 28 to July 2

Bricks, bricks and more bricks!

June 28:

It keeps getting worse for us here in Uganda.

We can’t remotely afford the vaccine or the treatment which has been recorded to cost up to 4 million a day. Oxygen cylinders are very scarce, let alone oxygen itself. 

Personally I have made my purchase of multivitamins and zinc and u started my daily dosage. My hope is that I can build a good immunity while I still can. I wear my mask and sanitize daily to protect myself but also anyone else who I get in contact with. It is true that I don’t get out of my house most of the time and it is intentional to protect everyone else.

This Monday I spoke to Lorna K, Christine N and Amina. 

Lorna K who tailors, knits and has a small restaurant called me about her flask and phones that had been stolen on the night that woke Sunday. They took 3 flasks and 2 phones. It was unfortunate that they were unable to recover the above items. It’s the custom that we report to police, which she did but nothing is ever done to recover what was lost or stolen. We all report in the hope that maybe one day we will find our stolen property. I was glad that in all this theft thing, none of the family members of Lorna were hurt.

Lorna (all photos taken previously – no Mamas are currently being visited)

Christine N. of the poultry farm called me to tell me about her interest in selling her chickens and buying chicks. She has been keeping these chickens for awhile but they have not been laying eggs as they ought to have been. She decided to sell them off and start fresh. She called me to seek permission to do so but I told her she knew better so she had only to call and inform me of the next move. For us it is always important for the Mana to succeed, so whatever the decision is, we always support them because we know and understand that they know best what is good for them.

I spoke to Geoffrey O. He has been very busy these past few weeks trying to make his bricks for the season. Since the closure of primary schools, he has been organizing and making bricks to be able to sustain himself. He has made tremendous progress in making bricks and as of his communication, he will or is going to be able to burn a few tens of thousands of bricks through which he will be able to support his family and the lives of the young men he works with.

Geoffrey’s bricks drying in the sun.

I also spoke to Amina A. who sells bananas. She is not doing the very best since the passing of her husband. Her second last born daughter has suffered severely and has been taken to hospital ever since her father passed on. We keep her family in our deep thoughts in the hope that her daughter recovers.

June 29:

I hope that you are well and keeping safe. I was texting Erika and she showed me her balcony temperature charts in Kelowna: 50 degrees 😱😱😱. What is going on there? Baking humans? I hope you can keep safe because I am sure these abnormal temperatures will usually cause some health related problems. 

In Uganda, we have had similar issues but not as hot as it is there and the most we have hit was less than 35 degrees. We have not seen rain in weeks too so most of us stay indoors and again where do we have to go? We are in lockdown. I have not planted anything this time round because the ground is too dry and the place I live in has a small water issue as we lose water for about 3 days each week. 

The internet died last night and most of us almost slept with no electricity because our phones wouldn’t help us pay for water or even buy electricity. 

Today I spoke to Maria A the piggery farmer and Jane N the water tank owner. 

Jane N. has been doing okay the last few weeks because of the heat and mini drought so business for Jane’s water has been on the high end. I am glad that whereas she has been making money, it is good that she has been supplying clean and safe water to her community. 

Jane told me that her family has been well through this season and thanks to good health but also good business. She has managed to keep most of her grandchildren home most of the time so there has not been sickness. Food has been available for them due to the fact that business has been good. 

Maria the pig farmer is in distress a bit. She called me to tell me that she was running out food and she is out of cash at the moment. Maria was forced to sell off her pigs a few weeks back because of an outbreak of swine fever that caused the death of many related animals around the area. She sold them at very low prices so she could save the little ones. She bought medication to clean and disinfect the sty. She used the rest to buy some feed and also cater for her personal needs.  She has now run out of money and will need to get more feed because the weather has not been friendly enough to grow supplementary greens. I will be sending her some mama emergency money to buy feeds to ensure that the little animals can feed and gain the weight they need for her to generate more money from them. 

June 30th:

I hope you are all well. The month has finally come to an end and for all of us who have made it till this day, I am so grateful that you have come this far. Thank you for fighting, thank you for maintaining your mental and physical health. We appreciate your following and are always appreciative of your feedback. 

Yesterday after a long time, we had some rain and it was actually real rain where it fell for more than 3hrs. Oh, how it felt good to wake up to the sound of the rain on the iron sheets and the ground. My garden was so dry but now it’s all watered and the flowers are all damp.

On a sad note today, I read a tweet about 800 people in Uganda getting fake Covid 19 vaccines. It really hurt me to the core that people have become this disrespectful to humanity and on top of that, they actually charged them between 100,000 to 200,000 Uganda shillings per dose. The cabinet minister on health was also reported to have swindled billions of shillings which were donated by the public and other companies. This money was collected to help curb the spread of the virus in its phase last year. Many companies donated both hard cash and cars to help in mobilizing and also transporting quick responders to help in this fight. All this money was stolen, most of the health volunteers and doctors were never paid their allowances and this explains why. This is the point where I remind you about one of our last blogs about “Uganda being Uganda”, then “Uganda Zaabu” which meant Uganda is gold. I know that probably this happens elsewhere too but for us here it’s on another level of being inhuman. 

The state in which we are now, we can’t roll back. Hospitals are out of beds and they charge up to 4,000,000 Ugandan shillings (about $1400 Cdn) a day. There is such a huge crisis with oxygen supply and cylinders. We have no ambulances available and actually there is an article in the papers about a lady who was tossed around three hospitals until the oxygen got finished in the ambulance and she died in the ambulance. Things such as this break my heart, that some people in certain public offices are abusing resources and people are dying like flies. Like no one cares. 

Today I spoke to Gertrude N. our computer service and stationery Mama. She has been ill with typhoid and ulcers for the past few days. Luckily enough, she has been receiving some kind of treatment and is now feeling much better. Her computer service and stationery shop is closed due to the obvious lockdown reasons. She had just moved into her new shared shop with a salonist brother just by the university and we had hoped that she would pick up after the long struggle. It is unfortunate that just under two weeks of moving into the shop, the lockdown was initiated. There is nothing we can do at the moment for her except to hope that when things come back to normal she will pick up.

I then called Annet C. another salonist with us and she was okay. I don’t know if it is a good thing or not but the president’s enforcement of directives is not as strict in her area so she has her salon open. There is no business of course so she just keeps her shop open to sell her shoes. I asked her if it was possible to close the salon because the danger is still there and we have to limit physical contact as much as possible. The other thing is that her customers who actually are factory workers, have been stopped from working and their numbers have reduced. This means that there is no point opening the salon if people are not coming. She is risking her family by opening the salon. I hope she can understand that.

I would like that you continue to put us in your continuous thoughts. Thank you for always following, please stay safe, maintain social distancing but remember to be sociable. Our mental health is important because we are social beings. Send people love, donate and support wherever you can to whomever needs it. Let’s fight together as one.

July 1st:

I hope that you are well. Happy New Month to you all. It’s unbelievable that the year is half way through already. It feels like the year just began yesterday and it is amazing how time flies. I have celebrated two birthdays in lockdown, something I never thought would happen in my lifetime.  

One of the things that are trending this week and the past few weeks in Uganda is the distribution of financial aid to what they called the “urban poor”. Last year the government distributed food items like Posho (maize flour) and beans which most people didn’t get, including myself. The majority of the people who got the posho and beans claim that the beans were not cookable. Whoever tried to cook it spent more power cooking as they had been dried for centuries. Most of the people actually threw the beans in the trash, it was a complete waste of resources. 

This year the government has decided that they will distribute money through our mobile money system and most people wondered how this would be done effectively because most people here own 2-3 mobile numbers. The other thing was what figures did they deem appropriate to distribute to the “urban poor”. The question is who is the urban poor, who qualifies and what are the pointers of an urban poor person. All these are questions most Ugandans are asking. 

Today I spoke to Sarah N. our goat rearing mama. The season for her has been hectic because of the dryness of the weather which meant that the goats were not getting much to eat from the bushes. Sarah likes to keep her goats in the goat house to protect them from theft and other threats but she has had to let the kids take them out to the bushes. Goats really don’t have an option to feed like pigs, at least not that I know of. Pigs will eat anything like leftover food, maize brand, grass, anything really. It’s unfortunate that these beautiful animals have limited food options. 

Otherwise Sarah and her family are well. They are healthy and they have food in the garden so that’s good. We hope the rains come back soon because the heat is everywhere. 

Sarah

Lilly A. the tailor is struggling She has not been going to her tailoring shop for more than a week. She told me that it’s hard to go there and spend the whole day without anything to do. She has no orders since the lockdown was initiated last week. I think things will get harder for her because she has no work anymore so I shall keep an eye on her. 

July 2nd:

The second wave of the virus is still hitting us hard here with more deaths of people this week. I read an article that the numbers this week went from 600 plus infections last week to just over 400 plus this week. This is a good improvement for us and it seems people are starting to listen more and react positively. I think it is because it has now hit us so close and at least everyone has a family member who has suffered and now we relate. 

I was happy to hear that some companies have started to help in production of oxygen but the challenge still remains in getting cylinders. I was listening to a radio show this week and they were discussing medical worker deaths during this pandemic. It was sad to hear that the National medical stores are filled with PPE (protective gear) for these workers but they are not available in hospitals. Guess what the excuse is… there is no transport to take them to the various hospitals. My heart was broken at the level of incompetence in our government and civil servants. 

I previously spoke about the “urban poor”. The government has decided that it will give these urban poor 100,000 Uganda Shillings (about $35 Cdn) to help them buy food through the 42 days of lockdown. The challenge is it’s now day 14 of the 42 days but no one has received this money yet. I will not remind you that the majority of these people live on a daily basis on something we call “work hand to mouth”. What we make is what we eat. There is no public transport and most of the workplaces have been closed so people don’t have money at all. I am only glad that some of our Mamas have not suffered yet because they prepared for it this time. Some of them have had to sell their stock like Christine with her chickens to be able to adjust to the situation. 

I decided to call Francoise L and Rovence N to assess how their interaction is going. I initiated business between them more than a week ago for Rovence to supply meals to Francoise because of Francoise’s medical condition. I was surprised to know that Francoise hadn’t eaten food for days and it turns out that she was beaten by enforcement people because of abusing lockdown restrictions. Francoise was caught selling yellow bananas on the street because she wanted to get food for her children. She was flogged on the foot and her foot got swollen and she has been treating that for about 4 days now.

This is where I got upset. When I asked where her grown up kids were to help sell these bananas, she said they told her that they didn’t want to do it. They are ashamed to do what she does to provide them food. These children are all above the age of 14yrs and actually the two are above 18yrs of age. Kids who can actually add value to their lives but refuse to work because they think they are above some standards like selling yellow bananas. I am sad that she has to pay to take care of them. We shall renew her supply for meals for another 14 days to help her go through this time of sickness and medication. 

Francoise

Irene L’s salon has been closed for 2 weeks now and she has been trying to look at options to explore. She is opting to try and repurpose the salon into a temporary beverage shop. She has always had glass bottles of soda and beer so she wants to refill them so she can sell these in the meantime. The problem is that she will need a fridge to cool them before selling because it’s a bit hot to be selling warm drinks. There is nothing much I can do for her right now but I will keep in contact to seek out workable options.

It breaks my heart every day that we brought ourselves to this point. We had all the power in our hands to protect ourselves and this nation but we didn’t. We have been hit by numerous travel bans across the world because we failed to manage our situation. It is hard to imagine that we can’t even travel to and through our neighbouring countries in East Africa. The message is still simple: wear your mask, sanitize and keep social distancing, but we failed. 

Yours in service,

Andrew Echel 

Director of Programs, Uganda.

ISEE Solutions Society.

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