Thursday, December 20, 2007

cholera and riots

There is a cholera outbreak going on here, and someone died yesterday at Mukhobola Health Center, which is were we work. Apparently there have been five cases at the Health Center. They all originated in a village a few km away from our base. Yikes! I’m not so concerned about Fanette and I as our house is a 30 minute drive away from Mukhobola, but I am worried about the project team as they live in the area and have little means of ensuring clean food and water. Of course now every time my tummy rumbles I think “uh-oh…” but I’m not worried, I have enough drugs with me to treat half the district. It’s hard to know the extent of the outbreak as the district health officials (who are responsible for controlling such things) are being very evasive about it, they don’t want people to know about it as it reflects badly on them.

On top of this things are getting quite tense with the elections just around the corner. Last night when we left the office there were crowds of drunks on the road and the road had been blocked and we had to detour around it. There were two rallies scheduled in the same area by the two main opposing parties. Very clever. What politicians do here is give everyone free booze and get everyone drunk, to buy votes. This results in mobs of drunk people all in a lather about politics. There was a small riot at Mukhobola last night, people were fighting and beating each other up with pangas (machetes) and several were hurt quite badly, including someone from our IRS team.

Today when the IEC team went out to put up educational posters, they were stopped by a crowd of people accusing them of campaigning for one of the parties. The posters have a Ministry of Health logo on them so people thought they were campaigning for the PNU, the party of the current government. Also when they tried to go to a village to do drama people refused to go because they thought it was a political rally. Extremely strange to us who are used to living in a free and fair democracy and who are educated, but when you think about it in the context of a poor, illiterate and uneducated community, the suspicions make sense.

We’ve decided to close up shop for the holidays a couple of days early since it appears that we won’t be able to do much until after the election fervor has died down.

No need to worry, we are safe and sound in our house at the Mission with bars on the windows and deadbolts on the door.

Had to go to Busia again today, the bank was a zoo and had to wait an hour to get money. I will try to attach some pictures of Busia so you can see what total chaos it is. I bought some bootleg DVDs of “Desperate Housewives” and a 6-movie Tom Cruise compilation…starving for entertainment!!! Every shop in town has bootleg movies, straight from China. Some of them were clearly made by someone with a video camera in a theatre, you can see people walking in front of the screen!

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