On my way to Tinmango village, (Kitgum District) this morning, one of the – villages worst hit by nodding disease, we pass a pregnant woman who is walking to the Health Center III. Joseph, the head of the Village Health Team, who is traveling with me, says that the woman will have to walk 17 kilometeres to reach the Health Center. I feel bad. We drive on. I visit three families who each have at least 3 children affected by nodding disease. I sit down, listen to their stories, and then head back to Kitgum town.
On our way back from Tinmango, we find the pregnant woman, seated under a tree shade. She has stopped to rest. She is tired. I ask the driver to stop so that we can give her a lift. She gets into the car. She is nine months pregnant. She started the 17 kilometer treck in the morning at about 7:30 a.m. By the time we pick her up, she has walked 8 kilometers. We ask why her husband did not escort her to the Health Center. They have only one bicycle and it has broken down. And so she has to walk. If he manages to repair it, he may come to pick her up once she gives birth.
She has only the clothes she is wearing and a kavera full of mangoes. From the watery stain they leave in the car, I can tell that some of them are already over ripe. The mangoes are the only food she has to feed on over the next few days – depending on when she gives birth.
We drop her at the Health Center III. The place is locked, save for the maternity ward, which is manned by a female traditional birth attendant. The only other medical personel at the Health Center is a student doctor from Gulu, who is away today. We leave the woman at the Health Center and wish her a safe delivery.
As we drive off, I think of the lady and the many like her who treck long miles to access health care. I think of my friends in Kampala, how we throw baby showers. This lady only had a kavera of mangoes, no clothes for herself to change into and no baby clothes to wrap her new bundle of joy.
I think of her as we leave. I thank God for the blessings He has given me. I ask Him to forgive me for taking things for granted. I thank Him that He enabled me meet this woman, so that He can show me just how much I have been blessed – and how much therefore I need to be a blessing to others.
I wish her smooth labour on this labour day.
By Jacqueline Asiimwe,