80,000 people are living with AIDS in Masaka, Uganda and 123,696 children have been orphaned
Masaka is located in southern Uganda, roughly 137km southwest of the capital Kampala. Masaka Town is the regional capital of for the over 23 sub-counties of Masaka District. There are over 767,759 people living within the district. Being the regional hub, Masaka Town is a commercial centre with banks, a post office, electricity (inconsistently), running piped water, and telecommunication services. (I heard that there were internet cafes, which do exist…but now I realize that there is no internet network to use…awesome…skyppers put your computers away.)
(photo taken by http://www.traveluganda.co.ug)
The region was the worst hit area in the whole of Uganda by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. For a long time it was the area with the highest percentage of infected people in Uganda. In addition to district of Masaka suffered more than any other during the 1979 Civil War to remove Idi Amin from presidency of Uganda, and again in 1985 to remove President Milton Obote.
The people of Masaka are of the Baganda ethnic group who speak the Luganda language. I have found the people to be incredibly gracious, demure, polite, and gentle. I feel incredibly safe in the Masaka region and the locals take great pleasure in listening to me attempt to communicate in Luganda.
Economic Activites: The major economic activity in Masaka District is agriculture with food crops(bananas, pineapples, and tomatoes), cash crops (coffee and cotton), cattle,Ranching, and fishing on Lake Victoria. The staple food is millet and Matooke. Industries in the include; coffee processing, soft drinks factories, metal works, and cotton ginning. After speaking with my host brother, Nelson, I learned that much of the economic activity in this region has been hard hit since Museveni came into office. Apparently, much of the staff in his party come from the Kable/Mbara region, which is located just southwest of Masaka. They have put much effort into building the economic stability of that region and have boosted their agricultural sales tremendously. It has gone so far that they re-routed the highway to go around Masaka, instead of through it as it used to. This way, to or from Kampala, Mbara & Kable are the first major towns that you pass through to stop and purchase goods.
Health: Masaka district was one of the first districts in Uganda to be hit by the AIDS plague and as a result many NGOs, both local and international, gathered at the area since the late 1980′s. The first HIV/AIDS cases identified in Uganda was in the Raakai district, the southern bordering district to Masaka.
Weather: Uganda has two rainy seasons- April-June and October-December and two dry seasons. The temperature during the wet seasons in Uganda is generally warm during the day and cool at night. Rains will come every couple of days and will last anywhere from 1-5 hours. It gets quite cool at night during rainy season.
Dry seasons are named accordingly as they are dry with rain not being seen for months. The weather is generally much hotter than during the wet season and it is quite dry and dusty. The dust fills the air and will turn you orange.
Typical Food: Main staples in Uganda are rice, matooke(mashed banana), sweet potatoes, irish potatoes, cassava, ground nuts, fish, and maize. The Ugandan diet is not very healthy, even though it is based on fresh local produce. Most foods are heavily soaked in oil and are high in carbs. Most lunch and dinner meals consist of one or more foods and one or more sauces. Sauces include peanut sauce, beans, or occasionally meat or fish in stock.
Fresh fruits and veggies, such as pineapple, mango, papaya, bananas, passion fruit, jackfruit (which, if you have never seen one, are like fuzzy watermelons that hang in giant trees), tomatoes, beans, carrots, cabbage, etc. are readily available. Most people drink water. All of this information is true, however, I am yet to find a traditional restaurant or home-cooked meal that incorporates the tremendous amount of produce that is available. This is obviously limited to each person’s financial situation, but it is mind blowing how little vegetables can be found in the food you actually eat.
(information on this page provided by Foundation for Sustainable Development, Wikipedia, and US Department of States websites. Photo of market provided by flickr- http://www.flickr.com/photos/jojobear99/)