And so I looked up.
|The ever-staring eyes|
|There is no escape from the |
|Playing cards on my porch|
|'The most wonderful thing|
in the world...'
The children here love bubbles - they will happily spend hours chasing after them. I’ve never heard search a mass of delighted high-pitched squeals and giggles. The older boys, however, have found their love in football. I bought a ball in Soroti so that they could play, and at first I happily joined in with the game. After all, they were only six and seven and eight. They were very good as well; when I wasn’t concentrating they could make a swift tackle and get the ball from me. I didn’t mind, and could only laugh.
And then some of the older boys joined (nine, ten, eleven, twelve). They, you could say, were just a little bit better. Indeed, they even got the upper hand of a fantastic football player like myself… at about every encounter, tackle and pass. For some strange and mysterious reason, I decided at that point that what the game needed most was a referee, and that I would be more than happy to take up that role. By the time the teenagers were involved, I had no chance. A depressing thought: nine year olds were considerably better than myself at the beautiful game…
I’m often given toddlers and babies to hold. I’m still not used to being passed one after they had been publicly breast-fed, but nevertheless, it is wonderful to be surrounded by all these beautiful children. I was given a toddler to hold yesterday. He was waddling about like a little penguin, excited by almost everything. On my lap, he poking me in the face (what is it with all the poking???), and making gurgling sounds.
And then I realised that he had a growth protruding in his stomach about as big as both my fists put together.
And then, the other day, I was passed a newborn girl so utterly tiny, weak and fragile that I was suspicious that she would not last the month.
And then I hear of yet another burial of a child, this one of a four-year-old; on another occasion that of a newborn.
The infant mortality rate in Uganda is 62.47/1000 (in the UK it is 4.5/1000; in the USA 5.9/1000. Information from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2091rank.html?countryName=Uganda&countryCode=ug®ionCode=afr&rank=27#ug). Whilst the annual number of births is 1,545000; the average mortality rate for those children under five is 131,000. (Compare that to the UK’s 761,000/5000, or the USA’s 4,322,000/32,000. Information from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/uganda_statistics.html).
There is a sickening feeling that overcomes me on occasions when I realise that many of the younger children I see and play with will not survive beyond their fifth birthday. It is something I cannot escape as I stay here: not a day has gone by since I have arrived in Uganda in which I haven’t heard of a bereaved parent, or a very ill child, or yet another child’s burial. There is a sombre sense of pathos to those bubbles.