This time in life is crazy and weird and with all the uncertainty of the future, I know we are all struggling in our own ways. It’s a lot to process all at once. My brain is slowly processing bits and pieces each day. A lot happened the week before everything closed here, and I’m finally processing all of it. A staff member lost her baby less than 12 hours after giving birth prematurely. I was there at the hospital when the baby was born, and I held his fingers while he struggled to breathe and was put in the NICU. Getting the dreaded call hours later was rough, but I never had time to fully process it because everything was so hectic trying to close the organization down because of the virus. So now that my brain is processing everything, I’m more tired than usual, so I’ve been taking a lot of naps. I’m exercising every day. I’m watching through the entire show of “Friends” because something lighthearted and funny is what my heart needs right now. I read news reports of what is happing in the United States and it breaks my heart. I’ve been on lockdown for 4 weeks now, but the virus isn’t bad here.
Thankfully there has not been an outbreak here in Uganda. I have been genuinely impressed with how the government has taken this very seriously and created lots of restrictions to prevent the virus from spreading. At the moment, we have 79 cases and 0 deaths. 46 of the 79 cases have recovered and been sent home. The last 25ish cases have been cargo truck drivers coming through from Kenya and Tanzania to deliver goods. The government is testing every single driver at the border though, and putting tracking devices on every truck as well as having designated rest stops for the truck drivers to try to prevent them from spreading the virus.
A lot of articles were circulating the internet in mid-March when the virus started getting bad in the States. They all said that Africa was next, and that it would be hit even worse. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how sad and messed up it is that America always portrays the continent of Africa as helpless and worse off, even during a global pandemic. A lot of people were surprised when I said I felt safer here than in the States. While Uganda definitely doesn’t have the same level of medical care as the U.S., Uganda has tons of experience in containing outbreaks and diseases. They are leaders in containing Ebola. They have experience in containing outbreaks of Yellow Fever, Measles, and Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever. Uganda also contained the deadly Marburg virus in 2017 to only 3 deaths. There is even a PBS article titled “How Uganda’s History of Epidemics Has Prepared it for COVID-19.”
America could learn a thing or two from Uganda about containing outbreaks. While the lockdown has not been fun and everyone would love to go back to work, it has been critical in containing the spread of COVID-19. The Minister of Health in Uganda has done an amazing job of educating the public about the seriousness of the virus as well as explaining why the government is taking the measures that it is. She gave one of the best talks on COVID-19 that I have heard from any government official around the world.
So before you go assuming that Africa will always be worse off than the U.S., do some research and learn about the strengths and experiences of this beautiful continent. Each country is unique and has its own history and culture. Uganda’s experience in epidemics is a huge asset in containing COVID-19. It may not have all the high-tech hospitals of America, but it has its own techniques and abilities to stop diseases.