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Mentally Ill and Poor in Uganda

It is estimated that 35 percent (over 11.5 million) Ugandans get mental illness. Beyond the statistics, what is the really ordeal of the millions mentally ill Ugandans?

In this post, we share a glimpse, through our Managing Director’s, encounter with one such mentally ill person in the city. An encounter which she first shared on her Facebook page – she shared a photo and the wrote:

This weekend was an event packed one for Kampala. There was the launch of Queen of Katwe and then there was the Kampala City Festival. Whereas, I attended neither of these two events I have still read reviews and reports of what went down – expenditure in billions of shillings. During the same weekend, this child, a young girl, clearly mentally ill is reported to have wandered away from the only public specialized mental health care facility in Uganda – Butabika National Referral Hospital, ending up in the Bugolobi Market.

According to reports, she arrived at the market Friday or Saturday and has been wandering in the market and sleeping rough. I noticed her today as I rushed from my Alinga Farms shop, going back to my car. I noticed this young girl, half-naked, laying flat on her stomach and on hot dirty tarmac. I was walking fairly quickly, I passed her. Then I realised I needed to stop and pay attention to this young person just laying there.

When I approached her I noticed that she kept wreathing periodically. She is probably hungry or in addition to her mental illness, she has contracted other illnesses, such as malaria, I thought. I looked closer and I saw liquid stuff oozing out of ill child’s girl parts. And I wondered. Later, when I mentioned this, some of the market vendors were of the view that she was likely gang raped by the homeless youth/men who are often intoxicated from drugs and sleep in the market.

What has become of us as humans, I thought. In the spirit of Wangari Maathai‘s ‘doing my little thing’, I walked into the offices of the Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) in Bugolobi Market to inquire who is responsible to assist persons such as the ill child laying wreathing on the tarmac right in the front of the main entrance of the market. I was told that I was not the first person to report the matter and that KCCA Bugolobi had tried to call for help – a vehicle of the nature of a pickup – to transport the child back to Butabika Hospital.

I was also told, however, that since the Kampala City Festival carnival took place over the weekend, the KCCA vehicles were busy. The alternative was to call the police, which they had done, but considering that there is a major week-long event – the Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) Trade Show – which started today, the police will also be busy.

I pleaded – why don’t we call for a collection in order to hire a pick up to take the child back to Butabika Hospital – all that is needed is 15,000 shillings to 20,000 shillings, I was told. I offered 5,000 shillings and that is all I had. The Chairman of Bugolobi Market offered another 5,000 shillings. I am not sure who else made a contribution, but all I know is that I insisted on handing over the 10,000 shillings to the person who would be driving the pickup in which the ill child will be seated ready for transporting back to Butabika.

Once we sat her on the pickup, we needed someone to sit with her at the back, a young man volunteered to do so but asked us for 2,000 shillings. The Chairman gave it to him. Then a lady who says she works with similar affected children advised that it would be best if we gave the ill child a bottled drink so that she remains calm on the back of the pickup. I rumpled through my wallet and found 1,000 shillings to buy Safi – basically sugar, colour and water. The ill child smiled while I gave her the drink and off they went.

One response to “Mentally Ill and Poor in Uganda”

  1. […] When I approached her I noticed that she kept wreathing periodically. She is probably hungry or in addition to her mental illness, she has contracted other illnesses, such as malaria, I thought. I looked closer and I saw liquid stuff oozing out of ill child’s girl parts. And I wondered.” Click here and continue to read […]

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