By Gilbert Kidimu
- 70% of people in Kampala live in slums
The idea of living in Kampala, with its compelling images of corporate jobs and pleasant shopping malls, has always seemed to be somehow at odds with the reality that most Kampala residents wake up to every morning.
In fact, a lot of people living in rural areas dream of the day they will finally make their way to Uganda’s bustling capital city and live the good life, yet for the majority of people already living there, nothing could be further from the truth. 70 percent of people living in Kampala live in slums, according to UNICEF. Kampala is one big slum, it has been said.
Every time there is a disease breakout in Kampala, the slums bear the brunt of it. The recent typhoid spell didn’t spare Saad Luwemba, a resident of Kinyoro zone in Katwe, one of Kampala’s most expansive slams.
After falling ill and visiting a clinic nearby, he reluctantly parted with sh100, 000 after the health practitioner in the clinic confirmed he had typhoid. However, a week after faithfully taking the medication, Luwemba felt worse.
He returned to the same clinic and was advised to switch medication and charged an additional sh70, 000. He hadn’t improved at all a week later, and fearing he might die; one of his friends called Luke Banabakinu, a social worker with Slum Aid Project, an NGO working to improve lives of slum dwellers.
“I discovered that he had intentionally avoided Mulago and Nsambya because he and everyone around him felt these hospitals were for rich people only,” reveals Banabakintu. By that time, he was deeply indebted from the charges in the hopeless clinic. He had no cent to his name.
“People in slums have a rare kind of solidarity. In less than one hour, we had collected more than sh200, 000 and immediately rushed him to Mulago,” narrates Banabakintu.
Luwemba, a senior four dropout was feeling batter in days and is now a healthy man walking.
The lives of Ugandans living in slums are mortifying to say the least. A ratio of 1 toilet to 25 homes has become commonplace.
“Musoke zone in Katwe for example, has six toilets serving over 1000 households,” says Banabakintu.
“Four of these were only recently constructed by KCCA. They serve as both latrines and bathrooms,” he adds.
An adult pays sh200 for any call and sh500 for a shower. “In their world, it isn’t shocking at all,” reveals Banabakintu
When plans for houses are drawn; including a latrine or toilet is luxury. “A landlord will casually inform his tenant of the public toilet that is available for a small fee.”
He says very few people are able to pay the sh200 every time they visit the loo especially when children are part of the household. This calls for creativity. Detergent buckets are used the whole day. When they fill up, the adult finally pays the Sh200 and empties the bucket in the toilet.
“The average size of houses is a single room and the average number of children living in each is four,” he reveals. It is a hard knock’s life.
This is the life that thousands in Katwe and thousands more across Kampala and slums in Uganda live. “The reason for this is simply poverty,” observes Banabakintu.
While fellow Ugandans live in mansions with sprawling lawns, are treated in the most expensive hospitals, and have their children going to the best schools; slum dwellers’ lives reflect the opposite. A decent education is a rarity. “If your life depended on finding someone holding a bachelor’s degree in Katwe, you would surely die,” decides Banabakintu.
The International Co-operative Day theme is equality. Co-operatives were started so that the lives of ordinary people, that is to say, poor people, could be improved. The supporters argued that when everybody had the vote, the laws that kept poor people poor while the rich got richer would be changed.
“All human beings are entitled to the same respect and dignity. Inequality however, has serious negative socio-economic and security consequences,” says Joseph Kitandwe, commissioner co-operatives department at Ministry of Trade, Industry and Co-operatives.
He adds that inequality hinders human capital accumulation, hurts educational outcomes and long-term economic prospects for those on the lower end of the income ladder.
‘The social impacts of inequality include unemployment, violence, crime, humiliation, and deterioration of human capital and social exclusion. Inequality negatively affects democratic participation; it fosters corruption and civil conflict,” he reasons.
Kitandwe also says that politically, inequality erodes the fairness of institutions. Inequality exacerbates the problem of holding governments accountable.
Where social institutions are already fragile, inequality further discourages the civic and social life that underpins effective collective decision-making which is necessary for the functioning of healthy societies.