Uganda

Medical Missionaries of Mary first went to Uganda in 1955, in response to Bishop Joseph Kiwanuka’s request to staff a hospital in his diocese. By the time of our MMM Silver Jubilee in 1962, there were four Sister-nurses and one Sister-doctor staffing the hospital and a nurse training school in Kitovu, above the town of Masaka. Health services were provided during good times and challenging times, including many years of war.

In the early 1980’s MMMs became involved in a different battle. In the Great Lakes region of East Africa Sisters were asked to investigate a ‘new disease’ called ‘slim’. Local doctors recorded symptoms in increasing numbers of patients but the cause was unknown. These were the first cases of AIDS in the region. Before the availability of HIV treatment thousands were suffering and dying. Because the government acknowledged the problem, MMMs and staff at Kitovu were able to develop comprehensive services for those affected. These included counseling and testing, an innovative programme for behaviour change, and a mobile AIDS home care programme. There were thousands of orphans. Farm schools were started, where children learned agricultural skills and had basic education. Because many people were too sick to farm their land, food distribution was organized.

As the need grew for assistance to people with cancer, especially for pain relief, palliative care was extended in the mid-1990’s in the mobile outreach programme.

Meeting other needs
Kitovu Hospital staff encountered many women with obstetric fistula hiding in indignity and poverty. To reduce the incidence of fistula and provide services for those affected, a repair programme was started. It developed into a training programme for health personnel from around the world.

By 2001 the Daughters of Mary (Bannabikira Sisters of Bwanda) were prepared to take over the management of the hospital. We handed it over in November that year, with three MMMs remaining in a supportive role.

Sisters based in Masaka have continued with other projects. They have helped to provide clean water and trained people in income generating activities and agriculture. They worked in prison ministry and with people affected by alcohol and other drugs. They assist those with disabilities to access services.

In 1970 an MMM medical team began monthly visits to Makondo. An MMM community was established there in 1991. They built a health centre, offering mother and child welfare clinics and laboratory facilities. A village outreach team assessed children’s health, held vaccination clinics, and gave health education. They discovered that the people got their water from contaminated sources, resulting in water-borne diseases. Working with local people and Masaka District Local Authority, a project was started to protect the springs and dig wells. By 2001 a total of 38 springs had been protected and shallow wells were constructed.

MMM assisted people living with AIDS in 63 villages near Makondo and Saint Kizito’s Home provided for hundreds of orphans. Many young people out of school could not afford school fees and had no employment. They were offered sessions on life skills, drug abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and behaviour change.

Moving on
By 2016 our programmes in Uganda had developed and matured. To ensure sustainability, community members had been trained and given follow-up and support. This encouraged us to plan to hand over these ministries and be pioneers again in other areas of great need. And so on 27 February 2018, our Sisters handed over our programmes in Makondo to the diocese. The Daughters of Mary Congregation are now responsible for running them, as they are for those in Kitovu.

We decided to begin two new ventures in Uganda and accepted invitations from the bishops of the rural Diocese of Kasana-Luweero and the urban Diocese of Kampala.

We moved into Munyonyo Parish in the capital, Kampala, in May 2018. The Sisters are getting to know the people and their new environment to decide how to respond to the local needs.

In Kasana-Luweero we chose to go to Migyera Parish, about 155 kilometres north of Kampala. In March 2019 three MMMs pioneered our new mission in the village of Kansiira. A ‘landing site’ for displaced people, it is a poor fishing settlement with few health or social facilities. Long periods of drought result in famine and death of livestock. Sister Juliet wrote that despite these realities they have found the people welcoming, generous and hospitable. They began to visit homes to get to know the people and their concerns. The outcome will help them to discern the way forward, living our healing charism in a new environment.

MMMs in Uganda are involved in:

  • Training in income generation
  • Assistance with housing
  • Ministry to prisoners
  • Assisting people with disabilities to access services
  • Vocation ministry and training of MMMs
  • Discerning new ministries

 

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