February 22 is Thinking Day for Girl Guides and Scouts around the world. It is the birthday of both Lady and Lord Baden Powell and is celebrated by thinking about important themes each year. This year's theme is "stop the spread of AIDS, malaria and other contagious diseases.
This theme is very relevant to our life here in Uganda. HIV/AIDS is a concern and a reality in all parts of Africa, and Uganda is no exception. Through concerted efforts, Uganda has managed to control the infection rate to about 6%, (1 in 20 people), which is a huge number, but small compared to countries like Swaziland and Zimbabwe with prevelance rates of 42% and 25% respectively. The most visible reminder of this are the numerous stores selling coffins along the sides of the road.
Malaria is another challenge for those who avoid the AIDS pandemic. We have a mosquito net over our bed. I repaired the hole in the net when we first arrived, and most nights we fall asleep to the gentle hum of the mosquito. At least she is on the outside of the net! Still, many Ugandans do not have bed nets. Since the mosquitoes only come out at night, a bed net prevents the majority of mosquito bites. I am sitting in our bed under the net in this picture.
At least two of our friends in the past month have had malaria. It is relatively simple to treat, but relatively expensive ($15). Now, $15 may not seem like a lot, but it is the equivalent of a month of secondary school fees for one child. With many people here living on $1/day, this is also 2 weeks salary. So, after HIV/AIDS, which kills about 44 000 Africans/week, malaria is the second biggest cause of death in Africa, killing about 19,000 Africans/week. That is a lot of people, and bed nets are a big contribution to the solution.
So, Happy Thinking Day! I am still trying to connect with the Guide troops in Bushenyi, and will hopefully visit them soon. I would like to know how they celebrate Thinking Day this year.