When people travel they write nice catching stories about the good time they enjoyed and how breathtaking the placed they visited was. They go ahead to flash photos of their nice hotel rooms, and the swimming pools, the artistic food that is painted on the plates by world class chefs.
So I traveled to Zombo District in what is referred to as the West Nile region of Uganda.
I may not be sure of the poverty line levels of Ugandans by the world back or United Nations but one thing am certain about are the high levels of poverty of my fellow Ugandans in Zombo district, my people in places like Okoro county from the sub-counties of Abanga to Padea to Jangokoro throughout to the Paidha town council and Zombo.
There is a joke that you can smell poverty in someplace but in Zombo it’s more of a reality, actually, it can be touched out here. It’s not that bad that people are dying from it but in a few years if nothing changes they will start.
Houses with grass roofs are not bad but, in this case, they symbolize, poverty. Iron sheets are not a common thing in this land, for those staying in modern houses they bake their own breaks for starters and go on to use soil not cement for construction because it’s expensive and that is out of their means.
Zombo is a district that has an altitude of more than 1000 meters above sea level and it’s at the border of Uganda and Congo with a number of official crossing points, all factors that would facilitate agriculture and trade respectively but of that is happening out here if they are then they are not being exploited to benefit the population.
Zombo is one of those places that makes one question Gods partiality, there is no place that has a dense concentration of churches most of them Catholic but you may think the prayers of the people of the land have not answered an analogy that the Former Arch Bishop Luke Orombi has floated before at least in a conversation I once had with him. But God in the skies has nothing to do with it. But according to Ecclesiastes 9:11, I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.- the situation on the ground has nothing to do with the Creator and that leaves a few to look at, specifically the leaders at all levels, both political and those not elected and the people partly are to blame.
The education status of the district in one of the worst in the country and the world, in the past there were schools in the district that sent out shock waves like Nyapea Girls but no one even knows about them out of Zombo. There are about 90 government-aided Primary Schools meaning the state does not own a single primary school in the district. There are 7 private primary schools, 9 government aided secondary schools and these serve the population of 269,801 from the 50,969 housgovernment-aidedend not to tell the story well because most of us hate them. We are encouraged to have practical skills but here is a district with only on technical school that most people don’t know about. I should not forget in what are referred to as town schools, I barely saw kids having foot ware then I remember the stories my father told me about them not having shoes in primary school in the late 60s and early 70s children in Zombo are actually living in the past, imagine them accessing dirty latrines with no protection for their feet. These kids don’t know school day trips or birthday parties and school sick bays.
Going to health a very important social aspect, 1 doctor in Zombo has to attend to 44,467 people as per population ratio, a single nurse has a load of 6352 people and 1 Clinician is to 26,680 people. Are those enough numbers already. At least have seen a case where the doctor’s have asked the relatives of a sick person to fuel the ambulance to take her home for her only to die a few days later because there was nothing much they could do in the hospital. Again echoing the former Arch Bishop there are still cases of malnutrition in the district with all the arable land around. The infant mortality rate is 41/1000 officially, Under the age of 5 mortality rate is 25/1000 and maternal mortality rate ratio is 99/10,000. The other alarming rate is the teenage pregnancy rate of 27.1%. But these are all numbers google assistant or siri can through around if you asked them. But if you visited even a few tens of the 823 villages in the district you would actually touch these figures and feel them sink in your skin.
Zombo as a district has only two banks and a few other financial institutions, this tell the socio economic tide of the area. There are about 7 NGOs and the few government jobs that provide employment of which are taken up by outsiders though Ugandans. Basically there is no middle class who can start up businesses to create an economic movement. The businesses are owned by Asians from China and India and the rest are control by people from other parts of the country meaning the Alur, Kebu and Lendu are greatly left out.
The exposure levels are also very low with only one radio station which is a monopolist, even telephone usage is not that much since only 3,043 out 50,969 households use electricity meaning they can have phones because they won’t be able to charge them.
It’s sad that a land that has not seen war or had any natural disasters is in this very sorry state. The only problem is climate change brought about by the destruction of the forests like Lendu that were among the biggest in the region.
The current leaders again are not doing much to have them restored, in fact they have not done anything about the situation if they have then its not enough to cause an impact or be seen on the ground.
Poverty is about not having enough money to meet basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter. Poverty has many looks depending on the time and place. But we must agree depending on the place and time people facing it will always want it gone like it has legs. Living one day at a time is poverty and it’s what is happening in the lives of people of Zombo.
When a population is excluded within a society, not well educated and when they have a higher sickness rate then it will be a bad society.
My story for Zombo, for now, has no beautiful forever ending.