On July 3, 2011, while travelling in Uganda, I had several very eye-opening experiences. Our group was travelling in the north (an area recently torn apart by a senseless war) and headed to small village to provide health seminars, and construct playground equipment for a small primary school.
As we neared the village, we stopped to purchase 4 buckets of aggregate to use in our concrete mix. Along the highway was a small quarry with men, women, and children smashing rocks into various sizes. Two children helped load the gravel into our mini-van.
At the village, the women in our group had started an eye clinic. They had asked for the worst cases first. The first 3 children that they examined were blind. This emotional experience resulted in a very visceral reaction from my colleagues.
After we had finished installing a swing and teeter-totter, I “borrowed” a one-month-old baby from one of the villagers. As I was walking around, I noticed a circular spot about the size of quarter on the newborn’s forehead. A nurse travelling with us indicated that she had ring worm (a fungus). It turned out that the baby’s brother had a much worse case.
Even more disturbing were the children with distended abdomens. According to our nurse, this can be either a sign of kwashiorkor (possible protein deficiency) or worms.
Children doing backbreaking labor, children (and adults) with all varieties of eye problems, and children with various untreated communicable and nutritional diseases made for a rough day. We have done so little and the problem is so enormous.