Until October 31, New Vision will devote space to highlighting the plight of slum dwellers as well as profiling those offering selfless service to improve conditions in these areas. Today, ELVIS BASUDDE writes about how an NGO, Macedonian Micro Finance Scheme, has helped residents of Soweto near Masese in Jinja town to earn a living
I decided to spend part of last Sunday in “Soweto”. Forget about the Soweto of South Africa. I am talking about the Soweto outside Jinja town in Masese I and II.
The connection between the Jinja and South African Soweto is that they are both big slums. It had rained the previous night, making the pathways muddy. Like in the other slums in the country, Soweto residents live in crowded squalid structures. The standard form of a shelter is mud and wattle.
Rent goes for as low as sh2,500 a month though this is still above the means of many, forcing them to share accommodation. Filth is the order of the day.
According to research, 13% of the estimated two million slum dwellers in Uganda have access to toilet facilities, Soweto only has a handful of pit latrines.
As a result, faecal matter litters everywhere. A pungent smell hangs in the air. There is no single clinic in the area. As a result, diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria and HIV/AIDS are common and result into high mortality.
Almost all of the estimated 6,000 residents live in poverty. The place is like a concentration camp for thousands of displaced persons, who fled from the Lord’s Resist
ance Army insurgency in the north. The LC1 vice-chairperson, Hamisi Nango, 67, who has lived in here for over 40 years, says the place was named after the South African Soweto slum. The LRA insurgency led to an influx of people from the north between 1987 and 1990.
“Most of these people are a forgotten group, who cannot support themselves. Many are literally starving. The situation seems to be worse than that of those in IDP camps,” Nango observes. He adds that they are lobbying for NGOS to help the internally displaced families.
Crime Shaban Lubyayi, 69, the LC1 chairperson, says crime rate is high because of alcohol and drug abuse. The majority of the men spend most of their time drinking. Fights, theft, defilement and adultery are common. Many women are single mothers. Some of the women distil local brew like enguli and malwa to support their families. Hope not lost In 2005, a Good Samaritan, Pastor Alfred Adundo, saw the plight of these slum dwellers and was moved. “I saw the worst type of living conditions in the area. Children were malnourished, dressed in rags, surrounded with filth as well as hopelessness,” he reminisces.
Adundo did not have the money at the time but was determined to help so he appealed for donations from Nile Baptist Church. With personal savings of sh800,000, Adundo started paying fees for 50 children at Masese Co-Primary School. Each child needed to pay sh10,000 as top- up fees.
He then used the balance of sh300,000 to buy uniforms and books for the children. “Critics did not believe I could start the project, but I knew God would provide,” he says.
Adundo then approached an NGO, Macedonian Child Outreach Project, which is involved in providing education and vocational skills to uplift people from poverty. They are now equipping 25 girls with tailoring skills and will soon introduce hairdressing.
There is also the Macedonian micro finance scheme, which enables mothers and poor women in the slum to start small businesses. Over 170 women are benefiting from the scheme. “We put the women in groups and give them money to start businesses.
This is to help support them financially,” Adundo explains. Beneficiaries speak out Kesimire Josephine, 19 says: “I cannot imagine how life would be without the scheme. I had lost hope after my parents died. I dropped out of school in Primary Seven the Macedonian project came to my rescue.
Zaina Kagoya, 19, a Senior Two student says: “The project has given me tailoring skills. I can now earn a living.” Susan Mabonga, a widow with five children, says because of the scheme, she can now support her family.