Karamoja Outreach Program, June 21, 2015

by Dr. Gregory Bartha

Pastor Mubbi Simon Peter, director of the Cross Emergency Medical Clinic in which I’m working, had been informed that the Karamoja people in northeast Uganda needed a medical outreach. They are a pastoral people related to the Maasai and are mainly cattle herders. In fact, they believe they are the only people who should be in possession of cattle. They have raided regions to the south, stealing all the cattle and contributing to the poverty of the Iteso people who are in the area where I’m living and working.

Soil here in the Karamoja region is much drier than that in central or southern Uganda and is not favorable for agriculture. The people are quite poor and now depend on government food supplies which are erratic. Their diet frequently consists of only milk and cattle blood. They live in small huts clustered together in camps. Sanitation is very poor and people are reluctant to use latrines. Flies are present everywhere and cover both the children and older people.

The Karamoja region is very remote and the road to Moroto, the district capital, is very rough. It took 4 to 5 hours to travel a little over 100 miles. The medical team ministered to 2 camps on the first visit and 3 camps on the second. We parked the vans under trees and treated over 300 people each time. The most common problems are fever, generalized joint pains, diarrhea, eye irritation, poor vision and skin wounds.

The team made several hut calls to people unable to come to the clinic. We treated one elderly lady with a fractured hip, another with severe heart failure, two with severe arthritis, and one young man with advanced liver disease secondary to hepatitis B. We arranged hospital admission for the woman with the fractured hip and obtained medication for the others.

Later, my translator shared his thoughts about the hut calls. He told me that when he saw a white person from America coming to visit a poor, black man in his home, asking with concern about his condition and touching him even though he was sick and unclean, he saw the love of Jesus being shown. I’m not writing this to praise myself, but only to report how one Ugandan viewed the work we are doing here.

I give God all the glory.

We are planning additional visits to Karamoja. A mobile health clinic and regular health education would probably be a better solution to the people’s problems.

The team provided food and clothing to the people and shared the Gospel with them.

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