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Our people shouldn’t die of preventable causes

I have seen that people are fast and blissful at celebrating death and least enthusiastic at preventing it

COMMENT | MORRIS KOMAKECH | Most Ugandans die young and from preventable causes. The Ugandan Ministry of health claims in its 2016 report that malaria is the top killer of Ugandans while the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the top funders of Uganda’s health care system claims that Neonatal disorders, HIV/AIDS, and malaria in third place, are the three top causes of death in Uganda.

Few people really write about death (mortality, rigor mortis, demise, fatalities, etc.) until a prominent person dies. However, Ugandans have been dying at an unacceptable rate for a young population. Only that no one cares except for the red soils that devour them. The red earth is feeding on us too much!

Deaths and funerals are very important social occasions in the Ugandan tradition. Many people are called to order the moment they are threatened to imagine how many people would gather on their graves during mourning when they pass on. The crowd that gathers at your funeral determines how resourced or important you were to your community in your lifetime.

Sometimes, your reputation gathers for you the most important decision-makers from among your people, to mourn and eulogise you. These days it may the prospect of soda and food that attracts crowds. Most funerals are attended by children yearning for sodas and meals anyway.

The e-burials under the aegis of the coronavirus pandemic should have made dying even difficult for those obsessed with popularity at death. But a dead person is a dead person, anyway. Death is a neutralizer. The dead person offers nothing new except the material loss for those indebted to him or his recipients mourning for their lost source of livelihood. I doubt people these days mourn the dead as it was in the past! How else would you explain that widows marry the next week and widowers the next day?

I must assert myself here that deaths in Acholi regions are mostly preventable. Death comes prematurely, and you know, the culture of not screening for ailments is partly to blame. Nonetheless, across Uganda, chauvinism kills more than diseases. The idea that you are not sick until you have pain, or that you are pretending of sickness to avoid chores, places many at risk of dying young.

Cancer, for instance, is eating up people like the cow gobbling roughages. HIV/AIDS has affected everyone and Ugandans no longer bother about it. They have accepted to live with it, and this has reduced stigma. With the advent of medicine, the viral load could be managed to an undetectable level and people are living to their full potentials.

Malaria has been with us and seriously, I never knew of anyone who ever died of malaria, until I read in the media that malaria kills so many people. I have known of children who died of malaria and never an adult. I once told a Canadian friend that I suffered terrible bouts of malaria while in Uganda in 2017. The dude almost fainted.

I had to explain that malaria is not contagious – that some horny female Anopheles mosquito just flirts with your blood and deposits the protozoa that make a home in your liver for few days. Once you take an anti-malarial then hydrate, then it is gone! What I have failed to understand though, is why African governments spend so much money on weapons and not on research to combat malaria.

Deaths in Uganda have a political economy to it. The politically connected and powerful tend to have large unrestrained mourners attending their funerals. We saw that with Lt. Gen. Lokech (RIP) and recently with BMK’s funeral. A humongous crowd seated skin-to-skin in total violation of the pandemic Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of two meters apart. But they mourned, finished, and went home – no police disruption. Meanwhile, our schools are still closed until 2022, right?

I have seen that people are fast and blissful at celebrating death and least enthusiastic at preventing it. In the many WhatsApp groups, I am enrolled, everyone is busy collecting money for funerals (Mabugo) and none collects money for health insurance schemes so that the ill can get the medical care they need and not die young. Some even innovatively begin to collect money to build a house for a dead man. People cash out on empathy and it is unconscionable, outright! Death has been used on occasions to reap money, and yet no one accounts for the fact that the deceased died from a preventable death. We are killing our people deliberately and that is social murder!

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