Tue, Oct 23, 2007 - Page 9 News List

Bringing an African village into the 21st century

A newspaper; a bank and an NGO have launched an experiment to help a Ugandan community battle civil war; plague and ignorance

By Alan Rusbridger  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

pressuring kampala

Finally, it can achieve visibility for (and thus exert pressure on behalf of) Katine. Katine and its problems barely register in Uganda's capital, Kampala. Some local officials worry that because it is an area where the political opposition to Museveni's NRM party is strong, Katine's problems may not have been among the government's highest priorities. That may be unfair, but the fact remains that this is one of the poorest, least developed areas of Uganda.

Now for the hard bit. For a newspaper campaign, three years is a long stretch, but in terms of a sustainable aid project it is relatively short and sharp. Some of the most rooted and important work -- training, reliable information and record keeping, supply systems and so on -- is unglamorous and invisible to the naked eye.

But there will be more obvious, and more easily recordable, progress. We want mosquito nets (thousands of them), bicycles (hundreds of them) and solar panels (dozens of them). We'll need books, footballs, buildings, boreholes, pumps, computers and a lot else. Through the Web site we'll show tangible evidence of progress and keep you in touch with our needs.

no garden of eden

Back to that niggling question: Why intervene? On one level it is a simple question. Here are people within our reach and knowledge whose lives are quite brutally shortened by preventable disease, hunger and ignorance.

They are people with virtually no earthly possessions and no carbon footprint, whose lives are likely to be made harder still by the climate change caused by people infinitely richer in belongings and education. To do nothing is, on this level, unthinkable.

After Joyce had described her average day to me -- a treadmill of fetching, carrying, cooking, cleaning, hoeing, weeding, thrashing and grinding merely to survive -- I asked her what single thing would most improve her life.

She thought for a moment and answered: "I love sitting down with my friends. I would like more time to talk."

Just that, no more.

Katine is no Garden of Eden. But as you brace yourself to elbow your way back through Heathrow Terminal 3, you harbor niggling prelapsarian feelings about what you've just left behind.

So you want Joyce and the 12 children who depend on her to stand a better chance of a life without preventable disease and hunger. You want to help Katine stand on its own two feet and to exist without conflict, displacement and famine. But you also want to move gently and with the greatest possible sensitivity to the culture you have, briefly, witnessed, shared and honored.

This story has been viewed 3984 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top