Category Archives: health care

ITFC receives funds for compiling a lessons learnt report on Human Wildlife Conflicts in the Greater Virunga Landscape from GVTC

The Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC) is happy to announce acquisition of a grant from the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC) for compiling a report on lessons learnt on Human wildlife Conflicts (HWC) in the Greater Virunga Landscape (GVL).

HWCs occur when the needs and behavior of wildlife impact negatively on the goals of humans and vice versa, resulting into conflicts and animosity between wildlife and the local people. ITFC has previously done research on HWC mitigation measures around Bwindi and Mgahinga National parks including learning experiences elsewhere from Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori and Semuliki National Parks under the USAID funded Wildwest Project.

A mountain gorilla in a banana plantation around Bwindi

Our previous blogs written on HWC around Bwindi and other protected areas in Uganda have included; who am I conserving for?, Raiding baboons and disease risks, Who pays the price? among others. It was from this experience that ITFC was contracted by the GVTC to compile a lessons learnt report on HWC in the GVL. ITFC is a member of the research, monitoring and Landscape committee of the GVTC and is happy to undertake such an important task.

The Greater Virunga Landscape (GVL) is Africa’s most biologically rich containing a variety of wildlife including elephants, hippos, lions, birds and the only population of the mountain gorillas. The high human population settlement in this region is a recipe for clear-cut conflicts between humans and wildlife. HWCs have been one of the biggest conservation challenges in the GVL for over two decades, posing a serious threat to wildlife, human livelihood and conservation.

Several mitigation methods against HWCs are being implemented in the GVL (see photos below). It is therefore important to document and recommend such mitigation measures to protected area managers. Along these lines, ITFC continues to be at a forefront of conducting research geared towards availing information needed to address this conservation challenge. Your thoughts on managing HWCs will be appreciated. We look forward to hearing from you.

The stonewall is used against Buffaloes in Mgahinga National Park (Uganda), Virunga National Park (Congo) and Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda)

Baboon traps have been used around Bwindi to control baboon raids on crop gardens

Our best regards,

Badru and Robert

1 Dead Lioness, 3 angry factions, 1 mzungu

Today we have the honour to run a guest blog by Mark Laxer who visited ITFC recently. Mark is President and co-founder of Chimp-n-Sea Wildlife Conservation Fund, Mark Laxer invented virtual ecotourism–known as vEcotourism–a real-time, interactive educational system designed to mitigate ill effects of ecotourism. He is also author of The Monkey Bible.

In August, 2011, I traveled in western Uganda to a health clinic–the Kibale Health & Conservation Project–that serves as a model for improving park-people relations. Villagers feel anger toward the parks for a variety of reasons, including their inability to hunt or gather wood within park boundaries, and the fact that dangerous animals too often destroy their crops, livestock, and homes. The health clinic is a way to mitigate the anger. Supported in part by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the clinic provides accessible, inexpensive health care to people living near Kibale National Park. My wife and I help support the clinic. I had the opportunity to meet the nurses and observe the clinic and its outreach program in action. It seemed like a great idea though my understanding of park-people relations was in its infancy and I saw none of the anger I had heard so much about. I said goodbye to the clinic staff and continued the journey south to Ishasha.

Ishasha lies at the southern tip of Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP), Uganda, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is home to tree-climbing lions. I planned to meet a WCS lion researcher who I hoped would drive me around, show me his work, and teach me something about wildlife conservation.

I arrived at Ishasha at 2:30pm and checked into an UWA banda–a simple, round hut.

“Mustafa is expecting you,” the UWA ranger told me, “but he will be delayed. There is an emergency in the village.”

I left my things in the banda and ordered lunch. Thirty minutes later, Mustafa appeared. “There’s a lion in the village,” he said calmly. “It has attacked nine goats: three yesterday, six today. The villagers are prepared to kill it.”

The UWA rangers–armed with AK-47 rifles–sought to protect both the villagers and the lion. It was not in UWA’s interest to kill the lion. A good measure of Uganda’s economy depends on tourism revenue and a large percentage of tourists want to see lions. In Queen Elizabeth Park, 140 of them were still alive.

The villagers–armed with spears–had a different view. “I am going to kill the lion,” one villager had declared to an UWA ranger. “And when I am done, you can kill me.”

Mustafa explained the situation to me. “There’s not much time left,” he said.

UWA had tried to locate a functional dart gun and now it was our turn to try. We called Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka of Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), a high-powered veterinarian and conservationist whom I had met with over breakfast that same day. I was sure she could make things happen but I quickly learned that in this part of the world dart guns and appropriate cartridges were a scarce commodity. We continued making calls. We grew increasingly impatient. 140 lions left. Human lives were at risk. The park-people issue had become more than an abstract model I had come to Africa to study. My heart pounded. My throat felt constricted. Kampala, where an appropriate dart gun had been located, was at least a seven-hour drive but we needed to act now. I wanted to offer to do something but didn’t know what to do.

Mustafa’s phone rang. The lion, which turned out to be a lioness, was dead. Come to the village, Mustafa was told, and pick her up.

Brian (who had driven me to Ishasha) and several UWA rangers got in the back of the Land Cruiser, I got in the passenger seat, and Mustafa drove about twenty minutes and pulled up beside the dead lioness who was surrounded by several hundred villagers.

“Keep smiling,” Mustafa told me as the crowd closed around the car. Many of the young men carried spears. Villagers pressed against the car. UWA rangers pushed them back and a shouting match ensued.

The villagers, furious that they wouldn’t be compensated for the loss of the nine goats, wanted to keep the lioness. UWA said no. The Ugandan military showed up and Mustafa, standing by the lioness, encouraged the three armed factions not to use force. Despite his calming influence, one could sense the shouting, resentment, and testosterone levels rising and Mustafa patted me on the back and said, “Please, Mark, get in the car.”

From inside the vehicle, I noticed the villagers staring at me, mzungu, the white foreigner. I learned later that many villagers think the parks are controlled by mzungu. I learned that many villagers think the twenty percent of park entrance fees that are supposed to come back to the villages never quite shows up.

I spoke with some of the men through the open window. I felt bad for the villagers. Nine goats seemed like a large loss. It didn’t seem fair that the parks, which generated the revenue, didn’t compensate for damage caused by roaming animals. Village children, women, and men had been put at risk. I thought of my wife and two children. How would I have felt had a powerful lioness been stalking my farmhouse in northern Vermont? I felt bad for the lioness. She was a beautiful creature and now there were 139 left. How long would it be before all the lions in Uganda were killed? I felt bad for the UWA staff. Caught between an angry lion and angry villagers, one got the sense they were underfunded and under appreciated.

Some photos  …

Mob justice brought her down. How long will it be before the remaining 139 face a similar fate?

Mob justice brought her down. How long will it be before the remaining 139 face a similar fate?

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Mustafa climbed in the vehicle, as did Brian, a few UWA rangers, an UWA liason officer (Warden In-Charge of Ishasha sector), and an UWA community conservation officer.

“Is it true,” I asked, “that villagers don’t get compensated for the loss of their goats?”

“Correct,” said the UWA liason officer. “UWA doesn’t do that.”

If UWA can’t compensate the villagers, I wondered, what about mzungu?

I asked each person in the car what they thought of the idea. Each agreed that if they had the money, they would do the same.

I climbed out and stood on the rear fender of the Land Cruiser and, with the UWA liason officer translating, spoke to the village.

“I came to Uganda,” I said, “to see the wildlife and to understand the culture. This is my first trip to Africa. I’m coming from the United States of America. I’m very sorry about what happened to the village, to the goats…and to the danger of your children, your women and your men. I salute UWA for trying to help in a very difficult situation. On behalf of my wife and I, and my four and six year olds, I would like to offer a gift to compensate the people who had the goats so that they’re compensated fairly for each goat. And to help the men who carried the lion from one place to another. I’m sorry that this happened and I hope that in the future we can have less of this sort of conflict where the wildlife is coming to your village and threatening your children and I hope that we can be very smart and come up with ways…to protect you and also to protect Uganda’s beautiful treasures–the people and the wildlife.”

I touched my heart and said, “Thank you.”

The villagers clapped, tempers cooled, and some of the men shook my hand.

That night, Mustafa, Brian, and I brainstormed over dinner ways to protect people and wildlife. Does one build fences around the parks? Isolating the park animals, genetically speaking, may not bode well for their futures. Fences can be hugely expensive and require ongoing maintenance. Multiple beehives forming an inexpensive virtual fence may repell elephants–and create honey–but would the bees repell lions? Buffalo? Hippos? Does one build fences around livestock and crops instead? The situation was complex.

Dinner was over and we had more questions than answers. Why aren’t villagers compensated for loss from wildlife incursions? Why aren’t there more dart guns accessible to villages bordering the parks? What kind of fence or virtual fence makes sense?

The next morning, Mustafa drove me around, showed me his work, and we continued to brainstorm the park-people issue. The education and the adventure had just begun.

by Mark Laxer

What has Employee Health got to do with Gorilla Conservation?

We have had an exciting week here at ITFC, with 8 special visitors! First of all, on Wednesday, we welcomed Fred and Jean Paul from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Programme (MGVP) to ITFC, followed the next day by a group of 6 staff from Bwindi Community Hospital (BCH). Here we are all together:

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From left to right: Savanah Schulze (MPI-EVAN), Mpologoma Kenneth (HIV counselor), me in the background, Hussein (BCH driver), Frank Ssedyabane (Lab Technician), Dr Richard Kazibwe (Medical Officer), Kemiyonde Caroline (Nurse), Edward Wright (MPI-EVAN), squatting in foreground is Fred Nizeyimana (MGVP), Nahamya Alex (Clinical Officer) in the backgrounds and Jean Paul Lukusa (MGVP)

But, you may ask, what do gorilla vets and community health carers have in common?

What they all came for was to check the health status of our field staff, offer advise and vaccinations and hopefully start a long term care system for people who work in the park and with the gorillas on a regular basis. Healthcare around Bwindi is not the best; good clinics are few and not always stocked with medicines. Transport to them can be a problem in itself. Therefore people are often sick for a while before seeking medical attention. If there is one worry that primate researchers (and conservationists alike) have it is the risk of human diseases passing over to the endangered species like the Mountain Gorillas, and vv. It has happened before already: in the past there has been a scabies outbreak in Nkuringo gorillas, and of respiratory diseases in Rwandan gorillas. This could especially be an issue for the people that are most often in touch with them: researchers and their field assistants who have 4 hours of observation time each day.

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Ghad wearing a mask while on gorilla monitoring duty

In Bwindi, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVAN) leads the Mountain Gorilla research from ITFC. MPI-EVAN already introduced some additional hygiene measures for field staff: they must leave their field clothes at the station when they go home and their boots are washed with a Dettol solution everytime before going into the forest. In addition, all wear surgical masks when getting closer to the Kyagurilo gorilla group. A next step is the introduction of an Employee Health Program (EHP) for ITFC staff. A grant Martha Robbins of MPI-EVAN secured from the German organisation BRD (Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe, or Mountain gorilla and Rainforest Aid) has made it possible to kick-start the EHP around Bwindi, in collaboration with MGVP.

Looking after the health of employees of research stations working with primates, as well as of management authorities like UWA, has become a main goal for the MGVP. They have developed the so called “One Health” approach, an integrated way of attending to the health of wild animals, the people in their vicinity, as well as their livestock. Such a health care programme has already been operational for some years around Rwanda’s Parc National de Virungas. Here in Bwindi a similar programme is underway but details are still being worked out between Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) and MGVP.

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Listening to Fred, who explains what the Employee Health Program entails (Day 1)

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Ghad, one of our field staff, helping to explain an introduction in the local language Rukiga (Day 1)

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During lunch many questions came up, to be asked after the break (Day 1)

On the second day we saw our basic Education Centre being turned into a clinic, and within two days, all 30 eligible staff were tested;

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In middle: table for intake interview. In foreground the nurse at work, testing blood pressure (Day 2)

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Several tests were taken (general blood, urine and stool tests, but also HIV and TB)

Vaccinations included Hepatitis A and B as well as Tetanus. As a last step, every employee received explanations of test results and subsequent advise from the doctor and plans for follow-up were made. We were happy to find that our staff is quite healthy; only one serious problem needing attention surfaced and some cases of high blood pressure need to be attended to.

We are very grateful to MGVP, BCH, BRD and MPI-EVAN for helping to make this happen. Now we need to develop a regular program of testing and follow up.

Miriam

3 Firsts: First class first aid training and Bwindi’s first flying snake

Yesterday we experienced a snake flying through the air and landing among us – more of that later!

The occasion was the first aid training at ITFC here in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, generously provided by the Bwindi Community Hospital (BCH). More than 30 ITFC staff (including ourselves) and five UWA rangers attended.

Bwindi is steep and rugged. Working in the forest poses many hazards with any hope of rescue almost always several hours away over difficult terrain (the roads here too pose dangers as we are only too aware, and even village life has its accidents). At ITFC we encourage all our field teams, from those going to monitor the mountain gorillas, follow the elephants, count the birds or measure the plants, to always enter the forest with a medical kit. But we knew training was much needed as the last one took place several years ago.

We were split into four groups: two for those who were more comfortable in Rukiga (the local language) and two for those who preferred English. Each of the four groups was taught by a medical expert from BCH: Robert and Evelyn (hospital staff) for Rukiga and Morten and Nina (medical students from Denmark, volunteering at BCH) for the English speakers. Topics included wounds, broken bones, burns, fainting, heart-attack, stroke, choking and of course snake bites. Each trainer did half the topics — so we swapped trainers half way through. There was theory and role play and the occasional test.

Evelyn Asiimwe busy teaching one of the Rukiga groups

There was considerable laughter during Robert Kamugisha’s animated Rukiga explanations

Morten Søvsø teaches first aid to half the English speakers.

Nina Breinholt teaches the other English speakers

It got crowded when the rain started and everyone moved indoors

Interesting moments included those when our local staff would tell what traditional treatments exist and the teachers had to decide if these should be encouraged or not. For example, a local treatment for burns is to use honey on the afflicted areas (we were told this is not good, better to keep the affected area cool and clean under a moist bandage and bring it to a clinic). For snake bites special smooth black stones (dipped in milk) are locally considered effective (questionable, but does no harm — good to get to the clinic as soon as possible and do not cut the wound). People also argued that the local bone setters were often more effective than those in the hospital (all broken bones should be checked by a qualified medic was the advice). It is also striking how people here expect to be given drugs for almost anything and everything, even as first aid – many of these drugs are unnecessary and could potentially be harmful – an aspirin, paracetamol and perhaps a stronger pain-killer is the only drug needed in first aid.

We played out a few gruesome scenarios. What to do with a severed limb for example, or a stick stuck in a limb, head or chest – we hope that this knowledge will not be needed but if it is we’ll be better prepared.

Robert demonstrating how to bandage a head wound

Robert demonstrating dressing a head wound

“Always check that you have not bandaged too tightly”

A final bi-lingual session included Robert giving a demonstration on how to use bandages on wounds and bites. It was during this that the snake flew (from un-noticed hands) into the crowded room to see if we’d learnt what to do … I don’t think many will forget that lesson. It took a while until all present realised it was only rubber.

Robert has everyone’s attention!

Was the training appreciated? Certainly th e ITFC and UWA staff agreed that they had learnt a lot.

Many thanks from ITFC to the Bwindi Community Hospital, and especially to Robert Kamugisha, Evelyn Asiimwe, Morten Søvsø and Nina Breinholt for their kind support and willingness to give up a Saturday. We’ll be ready for those Bwindi flying snakes …

Best wishes

Douglas and Miriam

Health and education in our Kigezi Highlands

I hope you are interested to hear more about our lives and challenges here.

I, Christopher, recently attended a 2-day workshop organized by the nongovernmental organization ‘African Medical Research Foundation’ (AMREF). Those of us living in the Kigezi highlands have various health problems which AMREF is raising our awareness about, especially among young people. Various local leaders as well as those working in health and education, attended the workshop. There were also representatives from each primary school in the region (17 sub-counties).

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Ruhija primary school; children are leaning against a rain water collection tank

As the chairperson of the Bitanwa primary school I was among the participants. Of course we knew already that sanitation in our schools is poor. But we learned that we can play a role ourselves in trying to improve that. The approach they taught us is called PHASE. What is it about? PHASE is defined as: Personal-Hygiene-And-Sanitation-Education. This touches on our body hygiene, food, water and waste disposal. We learned what we can do ourselves to prevent disease outbreak.

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The toilet block, for close to 100 children

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Pit latrine

In some schools there are no good houses for teaching staff, no latrines, no water tanks and water sources may be very far. The same problems are faced by many of the communities where these children come from. AMREF is trying to promote good sanitation practices such that our school going children can be in good health. AMREF will be building a water tank and an Ecosan toilet in the 17 schools in Kabale and our Ruhija school is included. A kind and generous offer, but we parents have to contribute too, by bringing construction materials (stones, bricks and sand). This is our responsibility and commitment to promoting better sanitation. AMREF’s goal is to have good personal hygiene in a friendly environment in order to produce and reach good education goals now and the future. We welcome their support.

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A full class room in Ruhija primary school

This workshop helped me in identifying my weakness and gave me a new vision regarding my responsibilities. Again to be in leadership is good, but there are challenges to be met and solutions have to be sought. We welcome any support or useful ideas.  We thank AMREF and also you for your interest.

Christopher

An airplane full of Mountain Gorillas…

The second workshop I attended was called “Assessing prospects for growth of Bwindi’s Mountain Gorilla Population” and was organised by the Max Planck Institute (MPI), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP). The workshop organisers had invited stakeholders from Uganda, Rwanda and Congo to share information of what is known about gorillas after years of monitoring, and set us the task to evaluate the effect of management on the gorilla population, formulate priorities and recommendations for management as well as for further research. The spirit was one of good will and determination to come up with strong and concrete recommendations for management.

Martha Robbins, MPI researcher who monitored the Kyagurilo research group with ITFC since 1998, set the tone for the workshop by reminding us that “all Bwindi’s gorillas could easily fit in one jumbo jet; that’s how few of them there are”. Given that, on average, more tourists visit gorillas per week than there are gorillas in Bwindi, the risk of disease transfer was highlighted.

We heard results from MPI’s decade long monitoring of the Kyagurilo gorillas (and from the recently habituated Bitukura tourism group), an overview of illegal activities like poaching, unauthorised collection of forest products, encroachment and pitsawing as well as of tourist numbers by UWA, a decade of veterinary cases and interventions from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP), a study of experiments with different problem animal control measures, and experiences from the Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) project.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority presented their plans for habituation of two more gorilla groups in Bwindi and said they wanted ‘hard facts’ to defend a maximum habituation percentage (currently 40% of Bwindi’s gorillas are used to being followed). Due to the large profits that they yield, UWA is contstantly pressured by politicians and tourism agents to increase the number of groups for tourism and is being asked why Uganda cannot have the same percentage of habituated animals as Rwanda (high: 80%).

We discussed how habituation is a ‘two-edged sword’: on the positive side, only habituated animals are near continuously monitored and can be approached for treatment in case they are wounded or sick, while on the negative side the closer the animals allow humans to come, the higher the risk of disease transmission. All of us – researchers, veterinarians or tourists – should be aware of these risks and try to minimise it by following specific rules. For example, it was advised that wearing masks in the vicinity of gorillas becomes the norm and that existing rules should be enforced.

Interestingly, we learned that the habituated gorilla population shows a slightly faster growth rate than the overall population. However, a possible explanation of this may be in the selection of groups for habituation; multi male (more stable), larger groups are prefered, which are likely to produce more offspring than average.  In any cases the animal numbers are too small for definitive conclusions.

In Parque National de Virungas, wearing masks is already the norm for tourists and staff … (Thanks to ICCN for the photo)

Questions addressed by 4 workgroups were:

  • How many gorillas can Bwindi harbour (carrying capacity)? Is expansion or improvement of their habitat possible or even desirable?
  • How can conflicts between wildlife and humans be reduced?
  • How can we minimise the risk of disease transfer to Mountain Gorillas?
  • What percentage of the gorilla population should be allowed to be habituated?

Each of these groups will produce a summary of their deliberations and recommendations, to share with all.

I was interested to hear more about the successful and much appreciated ‘One Health’ approach introduced by MGVP in Rwanda. It involves monitoring the health of local staff especially those who spend time with the gorillas. The program includes attention to staff families and various aspects of hygiene; it would be great to have a program like that at Bwindi and CTPH has started around Buhoma, with their Population, Health and Environment approach.

Miriam

Concerted efforts to keep our closest relatives healthy

I am just returned from two back-to-back meetings; one international workshop about Great Ape Health issues in Entebbe, and one closer to home, in Kabale, about the viability of Bwindi’s Mountain Gorilla population. It has left me with a better idea of just how much effort is being done by national and international organisations to save these close relatives of ours, but also how much more needs to be done.

It is only in the last two decades or so that we recognised that transfer of human diseases to Great Apes threatens their survival. For a long time, our knowledge was based on studies of captive animals, because it was so hard to study them in the wild. But as more primates have been habituated, for research and tourism purposes, more data about wild populations has been gathered (from observations of clinical symptoms, opportunistic post mortems, and… kgs of poo!). Participants of the Entebbe workshop, some 80 experts in veterinary/health/tourism, presented research results and disease outbreak cases among Great Apes from all over Africa. Chimpanzees, our closest relatives, are particularly susceptible for human diseases. But also the Mountain Gorillas in the Virungas have been hard hit by outbreaks, particularly of respiratory dieases (4 deaths were reported in the last 2 years and recently (July 2009) 70% of one group was infected and seriously ill). So far, Bwindi’s gorillas have been largely spared though there was a scabies outbreak in 2001, effecting 17 gorillas of the Nkuringo group of 23, on the south side of the park.

Note the snotty nose? Also Mountain Gorillas catch colds (photo by MGVP).

Working groups formulated recommendations on what must still be researched to better understand pathways of transmission , how to monitor the apes’ health more closely and compare sites and what can and must be done more to reduce disease transfer and outbreaks. This includes improved rules (and enforcement!) for researchers, their assistants, tourists, guides and rangers. It was hotly debated whether to vaccinate apes against common human diseases.

We saw many slides of… poo, often the only way to get information on the health of wild apes

There are many potential pathways of disease trasnmission. These may involve rodents, baboons, birds or even insects, and obviously such transfers are often difficult to prevent. Increased understanding of disease transmission will make us better prepared, though. I was glad to report that ITFC has secured some funding for Ugandan Masters’ students to look into rodents and baboons as potential vectors and I met several people in the workshop who are interested to help us to design such studies and help supervise them.

The workshop was organised by a range of primate research and conservation organisations (including Budongo Conservation Field Station, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Int’l, Max Planck Institute, Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, Lincoln Park Zoo, Orangutan Conservation Project, Robert Koch Institute and Wildlife Conservation Society) and facilitated by the ARCUS foundation . I’ll discuss the second worksop in my next blog.

Miriam

How my son lost a finger

Rather than talking about conservation today I want to share a personal story about my family. I hope it might give you an insight into our lives here.

I have a two year old son Mushemeza Norberto. His right thumb got burnt on a Sunday morning when he was playing with one of his elder brothers in the kitchen. The previous night’s wood fire in the stove was already covered by ash making it hard to see for these young boys. His mother and I took him immediately to the village clinic for first aid. Fortunately, the nurse said the burns were superficial and he did not need to be admitted. We went home a bit relieved.

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This is the kitchen where Mushemeza got burnt by the fire.

However, after one week we started to worry. Mushemeza’s fingers became swollen with blisters. There was some deeper damage after all and the village clinic now wanted to send him to a hospital. I was not at home as I had gone for a week of ITFC fieldwork. When my wife phoned me with this news I had to leave my work and travel home as quickly as I could. We took the poor boy to Buhoma Hospital, about 52 km away from Ruhija, and he was admitted to the children’s ward.

One month after the accident, two of the three burnt fingers had healed but one had lost the top joint, and was swollen and infected. The doctors recommended a scan which showed that there was pus inside the joint and we were sent to a bone specialist in yet another hospital, called Kisiizi (120 km from Ruhija). We travelled to Kisiizi by car which was very expensive for us and we were very tired by the long journey.

The following day, the doctors proposed that Mushemeza be operated on immediately. It took fourteen days before we were confident of his recovery. Because the hospital is so far, my wife had to stay with our son in the ward and I took care of our other children at home, and at times could travel back to Kisiizi to help my wife. We were all so happy when our son was discharged and recovered. I thank all the people who helped us.

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Mushemeza and the rest of my family after the operation

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Mushemeza’s finger after the operation.

So life here has its ups and downs. Those of us who work in Bwindi Forest enjoy it.  We are happy to contribute to conservation too.   But we need to live here with very limited health facilities (ITFC helps with a small staff clinic but it cannot deal with serious problems). If the government would provide better health facilities our lives would be better and we would worry less about our families.  These are our hopes.

I’ll try and do a blog on the gorillas again soon.  Keep reading and I hope to hear from you.

Christopher