For You Gulu: Angella Katatumba Continues to Breathe Life Into Northern Uganda
I will continue to be actively involved in humanitarian activities as well as concentrate on my music career.
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First published: July 6, 2008
When Angella Katatumba left the comfort of her job as a business manager of a company in the United States of America to work with her father, Honorary Consul to Pakistan in Uganda, Bonny Katatumba and to pursue a music career, she did not predict more responsibilities would come her way. On her arrival in Uganda, she was met with sad stories about the plight of the people in Northern Uganda who were politically, socially and economically affected by the Lord's Resistance Army rebellion against the Ugandan government. This rebellion has now lasted more than twenty years. Her heart went out to these people. The most affected people were children. She resolved to do something about it.
With support from her family and friends, Angella decided to use her status as a successful artist to raise awareness of the situation in Northern Uganda. She organized a charity dinner dubbed 'Gulu Awareness Evening' in December 2005, where officials from several organizations, political leaders, fellow artists and other Ugandans attended to help raise money for the displaced people in the war-torn areas of Northern Uganda. The evening was a success - over forty seven million Uganda shillings were raised in cash and pledges. That was the beginning of the For You Gulu project.
Prior to the charity dinner, Katatumba participated in organising the Gulu Walk in October 2005, which was hugely attended by several dignitaries, businessmen, political leaders and the public in Uganda. Residents in forty-one cities worldwide also participated, hoping to raise international awareness about the plight of people in Northern Uganda. The success of the Gulu Walk and charity dinner prompted Katatumba to set up a non-governmental organization (NGO) called the Angella Katatumba Development Foundation to solicit for funds to continuously help meet the displaced persons' basic needs such as food, clothes, shelter and water.
Her maiden projects targeted Gulu district where she delivered over seventy five million Uganda shillings worth of goods and services. She also visited Pader district where one hundred and four million shillings was donated. Lira district recently became the third district to benefit from Katatumba's generosity. Her organization collaborated with Kampala Pharmaceuticals Industries Limited (KPI), a local drugs manufacturer and part of the Aga Khan Development Network to offer free medical services to the people of Lira Municipality.
Angella Katatumba with nurses in Lira, May 2008.
The crowd that gathered at Lira Municipality Health Center II to get free medical care was filled with anxiety mixed with excitement. By 7 a.m on Saturday May 3, 2008, people had already flocked to the small clinic next to the mayor's gardens to await the arrival of free medicine. Some had walked miles to get there, the weak ones brought on bicycles and lay on the grass, waiting. Announcements had been made on radio stations in the district, asking pregnant mothers and children below the age of fourteen to turn up at the center to receive free malarial treatment. Instead, the crowd that turned up manifested something else. Apart from numbering over two thousand - four times the expected patients, the youth, men and women ignored the announcement's specifications.
Those who were already waiting inside the clinic were asked to step out and register first, which they grudgingly did. The KPI team then embarked on setting up points for registration. People lined up to register their ailments and be given prescriptions before being ushered into the clinic to be given drugs. The KPI human resource manager, Consolate Ademson, who walked up and down for most of the day to ensure the exercise went smoothly, could not hide her amazement at the turn up. "We honestly expected about 500 people but look at the number of people who have turned up!"
KPI and Angella Katatumba had, earlier in 2006, held a two-day mobile clinic in Pagak camp, home to about 14,700 internally displaced people (IDPs). They received about 1,500 patients compared to the expected 800. "So, this time round, we decided to stock more medicine to ensure that everyone here is catered for," said Ademson, who admitted that the number was still overwhelming, yet there was shortage of nursing personnel at the health center.
About 10 million Uganda shillings worth of drugs was distributed to patients on the Lira trip. The drugs included anti malarials, antibiotics for flu and cough, painkillers and some jellies for skin infections and allergies. In total, 190 million Uganda shillings were spent on the exercise. This was the first mobile clinic to be held in Lira district.
Katatumba too, was overwhelmed by the turn up, noting that the big number was a sign that there was an acute lack of health facilities to cater for all Ugandans. Lira Municipality MP, James Akena, who launched the mobile clinic, concurred. "There is still need for the government of Uganda to do more in the health sector because it is lacking in several aspects."
The mayor of Lira Municipality, Peter Owiny, who also visited the clinic, called upon the Ugandan government to increase funding for social projects in areas affected by the LRA war, so that development programmes can be facilitated. Owiny says that when the war broke out, people run away from the villages and moved to the town centers, straining the already insufficient budgets of the affected municipalities. He adds that every Friday, these 'immigrants' move around Lira town searching for odd jobs so that they can meet their basic necessities.
KPI's Ademson pledged that KPI will continue supporting health initiatives and commit themselves to working with different communities to ensure that everyone has access to proper health services. She added that KPI will continue working with Angella to hold other mobile clinics in future. Companies such as Crown Beverages, Megha Industries, Mukwano Industries, Britannia Industries, various media houses and some embassies have also jumped on board to help Angella Katatumba reach out to needy people in Northern Uganda.
With peace slowly returning to Northern Uganda after over twenty years of civil war, it is Katatumba's prayer that Ugandans and the international community join hands to rebuild Northern Uganda so that the people there can live normal lives, just like the rest of the country and world.
Angella Katatumba(R) enormously helped UGPulse.com hosts
Mirembe Campbell(L) and Jane Nteyafas-Musoke(center)
fundraise for Nyaka AIDS Orphans School at the Nyaka Eire! Concert January 2008.
Katatumba says she will continue to support the people in Northern Uganda by soliciting for support to help them resettle in their homes. The organization will also continue to fundraise and donate items to the IDP camps and other vulnerable communities. Admitting that she wants to reactivate her singing career after a yearlong spell, she emphasized that this will not divert her from her humanitarian work. "I will continue to be actively involved in humanitarian activities as well as concentrate on my music career."
For You Gulu by Angella Katatumba
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First published: July 6, 2008
Olive Eyotaru Yemima is a graduate of Mass Communication. She first worked with Ultimate Media in 2005 as an intern and returned in 2007 as a features writer.
A Ugandan talented creative writer, Eyotaru now writes for both the local and international media and continues to shine in the media every day that passes.