From what I have observed, family planning is an issue of education like so many things here. Very many people do not understand conception or contraception but are very interested in learning more about it. Since most people are just trying to survive, having more kids than they really want can be bad for the children’s health because for example they are not able to feed their kids enough or get proper medical care for them. In addition, it becomes expensive for parents to send their kids to school so many simply don’t go. Though primary education is supposed to be free, in reality, it is not. Parents have to pay for uniforms, books, and lunches and if someone has many children, often they simply cannot afford to pay. The large families we see also have a number of children in poor health requiring medical care and this too becomes quite expensive for the parents. The government health centers are supposed to provide free care but most do not. For all these reasons, the communities we work in really are very interested in family planning and I am always happy to see that!
When it’s really hot in Uganda, which it is in the months of January and February, it is hard to imagine that its cold and snowy elsewhere. It’s very easy to get accustomed to flip-flops, no sleeves, and warm Nile water. The middle of the day when sweat is pouring down your back, it’s tempting to wish for even a little colder weather! There is little if any rain to cool things down this time of the year so a blanket of dust covers just about everything. The Nile is the most welcome relief from all that! Interestingly, rain brings nearly everything to a halt, usually because the roads become too muddy for vehicles to pass or if they do, it is very slowly. In addition, the power often goes out when it rains. Thus, the dry season seems busier than the rainier part of the year. This is certainly true at the clinic in the last month.
We had a very busy February seeing an average of 60 patients a day and the month was capped off by a collaborative family planning day with Marie Stopes where we supplied different methods of family planning from permanent methods i.e. tubal ligations to long term implants to IUDs to female condoms to 44 interested women. With the 66 other patients we were treating at the clinic, this made for a busy day! Even after seeing these collaborative family planning days every quarter for the last 3 years, I am still amazed at how great they are. For all the disbelievers out there who think that people in Africa are not interested in family planning, I am here to tell you that that has not been my experience.
Another awesome addition to the month of February has been having the Jacksons plus Nick and Alec visiting and training on the Nile. It is so much fun for me to have them here. And it definitely kicks me in the butt to get training more and get fit. And of course, it’s a fantastic learning opportunity. This year, Kristine is here with KC – his first trip and her second to the Nile. The last time she was here was 8 years ago for the opening of the clinic. A lot has changed since then so its great to share that. And it makes me think about how quickly time has passed since I first came 11 years ago – that really doesn’t seem possible. And thanks to EJ sacrificing himself and getting malaria, my life path certainly took a different direction. Mostly, I am just very grateful that these nexus points somehow came together around one of the most amazing rivers in the world allowing me to combine passions for kayaking and medicine. Being able to continue to do these things and share them with people I care about makes me feel incredibly lucky. Life is good!