I'm back in Kampala after two wonderful weeks in Zanzibar. I have plenty of stories from my time in Stone Town and Jambiani beach on the Indian Ocean, but I'll save those for when I return to the States. The holidays were spent with a group of Australian medical students working in the island's major referral hospital. Despite coming from opposite ends of the world, our mutual professional aspirations and clinical culture made Christmas conversation as natural as at home. In Uganda, I'm beginning to reassemble a tiny crew for filming, and have a few interviews in the capital over the next week, after which I should be back Gulu for the following month. As the new year begins, I thought it would be nice to follow up on a few of the stories left incomplete at the end of 2010.
Over the past few months, Sehin has slowly been making her way through Central America. A couple of weeks ago, she finally arrived at a camp run by the Mexican immigration department in Chiapas. Her sister Yordanos has periodically been receiving phone calls from her in which Sehin often describes an uncertainty regarding her placement and timing for departure from the camp. After each call, Yordanos would relay to me the number from which her sister phoned with the hope that I might be able to get more information about her sister's whereabouts via a skype call. Until the other day, I was always unsuccessful at reaching Sehin. According to Yordanos, phones are not permitted in her sister's camp, and thus, Sehin has constantly had to rely on the goodwill of a stranger who either legally or illegally has come into possession of one. Two nights ago, I finally spoke to Sehin for a total of five minutes. She hopes to reach Texas by Friday, where after a 6 month journey around the world, she will be greeted by the American immigration authorities and her legal asylum odyssey will begin. Friends and family are on standby to help out when she arrives.
The CT Scan:
P. has is doing well. He has been home for a few months with no noticeable signs that we was ever struck by a car. Having come into the hospital with a Glasgow Coma Scale of 7, his is definitely a success story. He plans to return to work as a teacher this semester.
"Good News, It's Plague":
Well, the mysterious disease has finally been diagnosed, and it's not plague, it's Yellow Fever. To date, 48 people have died from the virus and over 190 have been hospitalized. The Ugandan government would like to carryout a mass vaccination program of the districts affected, covering about 2.5 million people. There is a global shortage of the vaccine, and Cameroon is also dealing with a Yellow Fever outbreak, so the program hasn't started yet. The Ministry of Health estimates that it will take weeks and a lot of money before it can start protecting the people of Northern Uganda against the disease. Some good news, all foreigners are required to get the Yellow Fever vaccine before they can come to East Africa. Though no one has actually ever asked to see the little yellow slip of paper buried somewhere in my backpack, I'm sure glad that I followed those CDC guidelines back in 2007 before my first trip to Uganda.
Raising the Question:
A couple of months ago I purchased a copy of the local Rolling Stone newspaper (no affiliation to the US rock magazine) from a street vendor near Mulago hospital. I felt a bit slimy buying the trashy gazette, plastered with images of Ugandan men in semi-lewd poses, who are being outed as "homosexuals." The paper has the journalistic talent and credibility on par with the National Enquirer, and is full of venomous and hateful remarks regarding gay individuals living in Uganda. It claims that gays were behind the terrorist attacks in Kampala last July, and that are planning on overthrowing. The rhetoric of the paper is eerily reminiscent of propaganda literature from Nazi Germany. I bought a copy of it at the request of a friend back home who wanted a piece of hard evidence demonstrating the plight of gay individuals in Uganda. Though the journal was able to publish several additions of its hate filled messages with photos putting gay men at risk of attack from their neighbors, a Uganda high court just ruled that it is illegal for Rolling Stone to publish the identities of these individuals: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12107596. Though the proposed law making acts of homosexuality punishable by death is still on hold in Parliament, this court ruling is like an outstretched hand in a crowd of fists.