"When they see us there goes up the cry of “Muzungu, Muzungu” (white man, white man) and in an instant they are upon us, these urban kids surrounding us and shouting out and touching us and above all smiling."
HIV, Aids, immune deficiency are all words which thankfully are no longer prevalent in the reality in which we ourselves live. They are illnesses which we only began to know about from the sixties.
However these terms are still very much apparent and in use in the slum of Kampala. We had the experience to see for ourselves the reality of the situation in the slum.
The security guard who accompanied us to the slum was able to show us what life there is all about…
Namuwongo is one of the biggest and most desperate slums in the whole of Uganda. 20,000 peope live here and they live in a put-together camp, surrounded by dirt, rubbish, and excrement.
The little water available for the inhaitants of Namuwongo comes from the drains of the city and it is for the most part contaminated. The poverty which one sees and feels in the air in thse places is alarming. 40% of the population earn an average of 250 Ugandian shillings a day, that is less than a Euro a day, and it is of course too little to guarantee any type of dignified existence. To this difficulty is added the fact that HIV is a great problem and touches levels of 20%, and this figure itself is on the increase. The women in this part of the world give birth to an average of 6 to 8 babies and a recent estimate had it that around 2,500 of those living in the slum are HIV positive.
Our visit got underway and it was as if we were passing through a complex labrynth of a place. The narrow ways full of rubbish and in the air there is a stink of urine. The people sat in front of their habitats stare at us and in the distance we can see crowds of young kids with bloated tummies, they dressed in an improvised manner and with bare feet but playing happily in the middle of a rubbish dump!
When they see us there goes up the cry of “Muzungu, Muzungu” (white man, white man) and in an instant they are upon us, these urban kids surrounding us and shouting out and touching us and above all smiling. I will never forget the image of that two year old child, totally nude, who took my hand and smiled up at me. It was the most undescribable emotion that I felt.
How is it possible that these young kids, infants for the most part, have to face up to such a cruel and horrile destiny? What have they done to deserve such? Deep in thought and reflection I was possessed by a sense of impotence and anguish. I couldn’t hande the moment. I needed to move on.
We began to seek out Ajani, a child of 6 years of age, who had volunteered to introduce us to her family. We found her near a waste heap playing football with her friends. She soon came across to us and greeted us in the traditional way of the locals - “Wasuteotya”! She a smiling child, carefree and with a full life ahead of her. Unfortunately, and as so often happens in this part of the world, any euphoria and joy are shortlived. Our guide was quick to inform us that Ajani is HIV positive but as yet does not know it. How is all this possible? Why is it that a child of six has to put up with all this? How shall we tell her of her fate? Who is going to take the responsibility to inform her? How will she react?
Piccolo Ajani… sei positivo all’HIV!