Faridah and James' story

Kamuli mothers sedate their children to sleep due to lack of food Head of Family Mukaaya James 30 years old Wife Nangobi...

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Kamuli mothers sedate their children to sleep due to lack of food Head of Family Mukaaya James 30 years old Wife Nangobi Faridah 25 years old Area Kamuli District, Eastern Uganda. 190Km from Kampala city Children 1. Konso Tracy, 8 years in P.2 at Nababirye Primary School – 5kms away from home 2. Edson Mugalu, 6 years, not in school 3. Bangi Mebra, 1 year old It is 2 O’clock but the three stone cooking area of Nangobi Faridah, a mother of three is as cold as a graveyard. It is lifeless and it must have been so for more than 24 hours. Broken utensils that have not seen water are strewn around the gaping kitchen. There are three chicks with mother hen pecking at the dirty utensils. In one corner of the kitchen, there are a few sticks that pass for firewood. They will later in the day be used to fire up the dirty saucepan and boil the cassava tubers that lie next to the three cook stones. Outside, Nangobi is holding on tightly to her one year old baby, Bangi Mebra. She is sleeping. Her other children, Konso Tracy 8, and Edson 6 are at an uncle’s place. As we tour their one acre sugar plantation farm of Nangobi and her husband Mukaaya James 30, I ask if the children have had anything to eat. “Ahaaha! Baalya sukaali gulu. Mebra niwe antawaanya. Omuwa ka walagi, awo atenduka” Meaning, “nothing, they have eaten sugar cane. It is Mebra who disturbs. But that one, I just give her a dose of Bekham vodka and she will sleep,” When I entered their house, a two inch matress passed for a bed for parents. There was no indication that children had bedding. Just tattered clothes lay about and maybe, when night falls, these tatters are gathered into a bed for Edson and Tracy. It looked like Mebra shares the same bed with her parents. Looking around the house and from the conversation with Nangobi, having one decent meal a day is a miracle. There is no evidence of enough cups and plates for a household of five. According to Mukaaya James (whose family is dependent on sugar cane right from his grandfather) on his acre of land under sugarcane, it takes at least 18 months from the time one plants canes to maturity. All of that one acre is put onto one Lorry which, amounts to seven turns and earns a farmer about Ushs.600,000. This means that for 18 months, a farmer waits only to earn Ushs.600,000. Implying that per month, he earns only Ushs.50,000 from an acre of land (about £124). “I see no hope. My parents and grandparents depended on sugarcane growing and they could not send me further in school. I am not sure if my children will not be like me. Sometimes I run away from home for days because I do not want to see my children hungry. When I come back, my wife Nangobi quarrels that I have been with other women.”