Obulala an Amani

Book review
ELLY WANDASinging for Life: HIV/AIDS and Music in Uganda

By Ronald Elly Wanda, Jan 8 2009
The question “where were you during the millennium revelry?” has now become a historical. For me, save for the champagne I drunk on that eve, I will always remember it as the time I lost a dear aunt to the scourge known as AIDS. Whilst we celebrated in London having seen the dawn of the millennium, in Kakamega (western Kenya) my relatives mourned for having lost their ‘daughter’ on the millennium. So Gregory Barz offers ethnography of how education about HIV/AIDS in presented to Ugandan audiences through music, dance, and drama. Working with Women’s groups, Doctors, indigenous healers, since 1999, he investigates how song texts refers to HIV/AIDS, and how women suffering from HIV/AIDS have become empowered by through their music, dance and drama presentations, thus singing for life.
While in the past HIV/AIDS victims were afraid to be seen in the public, the various grassroots organisations that formed have provided health support to victims, and through music, dance, and drama have provided them with medical advice, support and encouragement. ‘TASO is going forward with positive living’ is a song performed by The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO) Mulago Drama School.

Extensive translations of song texts appear throughout, and nine of the songs can heard on the accompanying CD. Each chapter contains a case study (or “interlude”) that includes an interview with a specific person or persons on the subject in hand. For example, in chapter 2, “What you sing nourishes your body like food”, the case study Dr Alex Muganzi Muganga is labelled “our problems are bigger than AIDS”, referring to illiteracy and poverty. Dr Muganga also reflects on the changing roles that religious leaders have adopted, starting by making no reference to the disease, but subsequently incorporating reference into summons at church services. 

Chapter 3, “No one will listen to us unless we bring our drums”, discusses how women have attracted men to their performances. The women’s songs provide texts on the need for HIV AIDS testing, the need for single sexual partners, and the physical indicators and consequences of the presence of HIV/AIDS.

Chapter 5, “Singing in a language AIDS can hear”, discusses the role of religious officials in dealing with HIV/AIDS.
Barz develops six themes in his work. He stresses that one must go beyond the western model of medicine, and the need to approach the disease as a culturally defined and determined social phenomenon. He discusses how music is used as a strategy and response to cultural conceptualisations of HIV/AIDS.

The theme of “re-memorying” includes engaging the listener with cultural memory within songs, and the inclusion of favourite songs in the HIV/AIDS patients’ individual memory books, written for their children.

Shortcomings of the book include the lack of a map to show where the individual communities with whom the research was conducted are located, lack of discussion of the various ethnic groups who live in Uganda. In Barz’s discussions of the term ‘music’ he acknowledges that it dos not exist in many Ugandan languages, but neglects to indicate that the related term (which is used to refer to music in the Bantu-speaking groups of southern Uganda) is Oluyimbo (plural: ennyimba), song. He book appeals to medical professions, social workers and musicologists (Gregory Barz, ‘Singing for Life: HIV/AIDS and Music in Uganda, Routledge, NY. 2006, pp250).

Ronald Elly Wanda MCIJ is a Political Scientist based in London

UK Kenyan doctors, nurses launch heart charity

By INGONEWS Reporter, London October 5, 2007

Kenyan doctors, nurses and health carers in the UK have launched African Heart Foundation, a charity whose aim is to provide open-heart surgery at no or minimal cost to the patient in East Africa. The event which was held on 29th September 2007, at the Jungle Club in Leicester, was attended by 200 guests from Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and United Kingdom, according to a press release by publicity secretary, Dr. Kenneth Chelule.

The guests were treated to a live performance by singer/songwriter Mim Suleiman from Zanzibar. During the dinner, the foundation chairman Mr E Akunda delivered a passionate introductory speech detailing the charity’s aims and mission. In his speech the founding surgeon, Mr. R S. Jutley (cardiothoracic surgeon) said that one of aim of the foundation was to be able to offer heart operation at cheaper cost by using an innovative method of simultaneous training and operating. One such approach which was described to the guests and was received enthusiastically, is the use of mobile operating using teams of trucks carrying the necessary equipment to previously selected peripheral hospitals.

Africa Heart Foundation plans to purchase and equip the first team of trucks within the next 2 years. The foundation also plans to build a centre in Nairobi to train nurses and medical staff. Prior to this, the charity is organising to undertake its first operating mission in Nairobi, Kenya in October 2008 with the support of Dr Charles Kariuki, Interventional Cardiologist based in Nairobi Hospital.  In the run-up to the planned 2008 heart operation AHF will sponsor selected number of Kenyan based nurses to attend further training in the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile the attendees expressed overwhelming support for the foundation with many of them saying that the idea was long overdue.  Mr Pradip Sarkar, a senior consultant cardiac surgeon based in Sheffield, UK had the following to say after dinner “I am delighted to be a part of this organisation tonight. I have listened to its aims and proposed missions and would like to pledge my whole-hearted support for Africa Heart Foundation”. Similar views were expressed by Dr Conrad Grosser, consultant interventional cardiologist, Rotherham Hospital, UK who went on to say.  “I look forward to working with Africa Heart Foundation in the future in helping them achieve their aims”.

The foundation was formed early this year and has a registered office in London. The launch of the foundation comes at a time when the world is preparing to celebrate 40th anniversary since the first heart transplant was done on 3rd December 1967.

For further information about the AHF events and Africa Heart Foundation please visit www.africaheartfoundation.org or email AHF:  funds@africaheartfoundation.org

Prayers alone cannot heal HIV

By Harold Ayodo, Kisumu, Thursday, May 3 2007
Spiritual leaders and witchdoctors claiming to cure HIV/Aids are bottlenecks in the fight against the pandemic.
Researchers and scientists attending an international conference on HIV/Aids in Kisumu, said some people in rural areas shied away from anti-retroviral (ARVs) therapy and opted for prayers and witchdoctors following advice of spiritual leaders.
Prof Sheikh Niang, a Senegalese, called on African governments to borrow a leaf from Rwanda, which had included spiritual and cult leaders in fighting the pandemic.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of reported HIV/Aids cases worldwide, with an estimated 24.5 million living with the disease by the end of 2005.
About 2.7 million additional people were infected with the virus in 2005 alone and more than 12 million children have been orphaned by HIV/Aids.
Ms Mvurilia Nadine, a community health worker in Rwanda, said: "The Government has resolved to support community health workers, who move door to door encouraging patients to continue with their doses," Nadine said.
Niang told the more than 500 participants drawn from across the globe that Africans were religious, but containing HIV/Aids was an overriding prerequisite.
Cultural practices like wife inheritance also came to the fore. Participants argued it was an African culture, but should only be practised with caution.
"Let us remain religious and maintain our rich culture but know that there is no known shortcut, except ARVs, on prolonging the life of infected patients," Sheikh said.
National Co-ordinating Agency for Population and Development director, Dr Richard Muga, said testing for HIV/Aids before re-marrying was important. "Sexual intercourse continues in several instances where a spouse dies and leaves another," Muga said.
Health workers from across the continent said ARVs worth billions of shillings remained uncollected in public hospitals as more infected patients turned to prayers.
Participants concurred that poverty had been the main stumbling block in the fight against the virus until spiritual and cult leaders emerged with their healing gospel.

Source: EA Standard


Crisis talks as Lugulu Hospital faces a bleak future

By Luke Kapchange, Tuesday, Nairobi, 23 April, 2007
We preach good news, heal the sick and minister to the needy”. That is the motto of Lugulu Mission Hospital. But the hospital is now financially unwell.
Lugulu Mission Hospital is facing a crisis that has cast doubt on its ability to provide quality health care to more than 100,000 people in Western Province.
Workers said they had not been paid for the last 17 months after donors tightened their purse strings following allegations of financial mismanagement.
The more than 100 workers are demanding salary arrears amounting to Sh13 million. This and other debts have put a heavy financial burden on the hospital that serves Bungoma and its environs, including the clash-hit Mt Elgon District.
Managers admit owing salary arrears to staff, but dispute that they have not paid them for 17 months. According to one administrator, the staff have been without pay for 13 months.
The administrator said they were in talks with other donors and expressed optimism that money to pay the outstanding debts would be released soon. The workers are putting the managers under pressure to pay up and have threatened to go on strike unless they are paid their full dues in the next three months.
According to them, the hospital managers were paying themselves salaries in advance yet the other workers continue to suffer.

Some have blamed the doctor-in-charge, Dr Simon Kisaka, seconded to the hospital by the Government, for showing little interest in resolving the pay dispute.
But Dr Kisaka said some of the workers who were calling for the strike had been involved in malpractices, including theft that had plunged the hospital in financial difficulties. Calls for a strike, he said, surfaced after his administration started to crack the whip on theft by staff.“They are trying to arm-twist the management by demanding the arrears after noticing that tough disciplinary measures are being taken against small-time thieves,” he said.

The hospital largely depends on donors to sustain its operations. Most of its money comes from the Friends United Mission of the USA. For the past six years, Dr Kisaka said, no donor was willing to fund any project at the hospital due to inefficiency by previous managers. Books of account were never kept up-to-date, he said, yet donors were demanding audited reports before approving further funding. According to Dr Kisaka, the management had put the books of account in order and were expecting funding to resume. “Once the funds start flowing, we will certainly clear the salary arrears we owe staff,” he said.
Also owed are suppliers and others who transact business with the hospital.

Located on the Webuye–Kitale road, the hospital that was founded by Quakers has a bed capacity of 110. It started as a dressing centre in 1920 and was upgraded to a dispensary in 1948. In 1967, it was elevated to a health centre before becoming a fully-fledged hospital in 1976. It has been expanding gradually since 1948 when in-patient services were introduced by converting a Bible school dormitory into a ward. Only recently, four additional wards were built and essential facilities like x-ray and laundry machines, an operating theatre, kitchen, staff houses and a family planning clinic were also introduced.

Ms Edith Elaine Radcliff was the first nurse to be posted to the institution in 1948. She was assisted by untrained staff, who continued to provide medical services, until 1977, when the first doctor was deployed to the hospital. Currently, Lugulu Mission Hospital has two doctors, four clinical officers, two laboratory technicians and a radiographer. The Friends United Mission, one of the donors, has been seconding doctors from the US to the hospital since 1980.
It also funded several projects, including drilling of a borehole, which improved the quality of water used at the hospital.

About 6,000 patients are admitted at the hospital every year, while 30,000 others are treated as out-patients. At the minor theatre, emergency or life saving departments, 1,300 operations are carried out yearly, according to documents at the hospital. Some 33,000 tests are carried out and 2,340 X-ray examinations are performed annually. With the closure of Misikhu Mission Hospital, which was run by the Bungoma Catholic Diocese, about five kilometres from Lugulu, the services of Lugulu hospital are in high demand. The Pan-African Paper Mills and Nzoia Sugar Company, Lugulu and Misikhu Girls High schools are some of the institutions that send their employees and students for treatment at Lugulu. Some of the institutions pay the hospital on monthly basis.

Outstanding debts
But managers said most of what is paid by schools or companies is used to clear outstanding debts.  They pay the creditors to avoid being taken to court over debts incurred by previous managers.  Dr Kisaka said donors were willing to help clear the arrears, but had delayed releasing the money due to lack of audited accounts for the past six years. According to the doctor, the hospital paid creditors Sh4.7 million last year, making it difficult for it to pay staff salaries.

Revenue collection has improved, though, and Dr Kisaka has asked employees for patience saying, they will be paid. However, tough disciplinary measures were being taken to instil a sense of responsibility among staff. The hospital’s administrator, Mr Thambura Kiburi, was also optimistic that debts to staff and other creditors will be cleared after which salaries will be paid on time. Mr Kiburi said the hospital had cut down on costs by getting milk for patients from the its dairy projects and raising chicken to supplement patients’ diet.