The Healing Kitagata Springs of Western Uganda
In the western Uganda district of Bushenyi is found one of Ugandas wonders, the Kitagata hot springs that are famous for their curative waters. John Isingoma visited Kitagata and found out why they continue to be a magnet of those who need healing.
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First published: January 11, 2006
Visiting Kitagata hot springs is like visiting a referral hospital. Kitagata springs are found in Sheema south, Bushenyi district, around 350kms west of the Ugandan capital Kampala.
The place is dotted with small houses, some grass thatched, others roofed with corrugated iron sheets, which act as private rooms for patients to hire. The scene of people almost naked resting in water in a pond-like formation is the first to inform you that you have arrived at the healing place. Women and men of all ages seem to be enjoying the water in flowing from the two nearby springs.
There are two points where people soak themselves for the spring waters to heal them. One hot spring is famously known as Mulago while another is called Ekitagata kyomugabe, meaning the hot spring for the king of Ankole. Mulago is national referral hospital in Uganda, while Ankole is a sub region in Western Uganda.
Kitagata is a vernacular for warmth, but because of the popularity of the place, the village and sub-country are called Kitagata.
The patients use the water from Kitagata twice a day to drink and to bathe. Here, you witness patients taking turns to lie in the water for treatment. The official schedule is four hours in the morning and up to 7 hours in the evening.
According to Geresom Kabasekye, the leader and guide at the hot spring, the morning session is shorter because when sunshine increases the water gets hotter and uncomfortable to bathe in.
He says that the evening session goes on up to morning. Each patient returns to their private rooms to rest at will and convenience.
People with ailments on the body dip that particular part in the water to get healed. If someone is having stomach problems, they draw the water directly from the burble source locally called Akaswonswo and let it cool to the temperature they can drink it.
It is indeed as busy as a hospital. As other patients come in, others go out, admitting themselves to the hospital and discharging themselves after treatment. Kabasekye says that they get around 800 visitors (patients) every week, people of all ages and from all corners of the country.
There is no single disease on earth that this Mulago-hot springs cannot cure. Talk of skin rashes, fever, joint pains, cancer, wounds of all types and size and many more illnesses which the medical people have failed to treat can be cured by the Kitagata hot springs, Kabasekye says with authority.
As a way to ensure orderliness and hygiene at Kitagata, the leaders have put in place rules, which have almost become folk norms for people here. People are not supposed to fight, make noise, smoke, use soap; while children have to be dipped in dressed in their nappies.
On any day you go to Kitagata, you dont need to go far to hear the testimonies about the miraculous healing at Kitagata hot springs. Hana Kyoshaba, 28, a nurse at Kitagata Hospital says the hot spring has curative waters, which healed a very big wound that she suffered when she was 15. Kyoshaba says she applied capsules and other medicine given to her at the clinic but the medical treatment had failed to cure her.
I decided to use the hot spring water. In two weeks, the wound was no more. What you could see before was a fresh scar, said Kyoshaba who was born in Kitagata sub-county.
Penlope Kyosiimire, 18, says that in her lifetime, the hot spring waters have cured her of many illnesses ranging from wounds, skin rashes, joint pains to headaches. I have seen many people healed by the Kitagata, she says.
However, a 67-year retired captain Tumwine a resident of Kitagata says that though he believes that the hot spring waters can cure, it also takes faith and belief in the healing powers of the waters for it to work on you. He may have a point for even in modern medicine studies have shown that patients can recover faster if they have faith in the doctor treating them, let alone the medicine.
But how did this hot spring come about?
The hot springs have attracted many people to this place to witness the curing water that burbles from the ground. You will certainly go back satisfied about its presence and healing powers but the question remains: how did this hot spring come about? Many such natural wonders are a result on geological processes, which are also responsible for the formation of other landforms like mountains and rift valleys.
Tumwine who stays in Kitagata town, around a kilometer from the hot springs believes that Kitagata is not as result of tectonic forces but God sent water to treat His people.
Which other waters have you heard that cures illnesses? None. Therefore, this makes me think that the waters are a gift from God to His people, concludes Tumwine.
You can forgive Tumwine for not knowing the existence of other hot springs with curative waters, which people have also testified about.
You might have heard of the Cascade spring in South Dakota, Mammoth springs, Arkansas hot springs, Cottonwood hot springs in Colorado, and Pagosa springs also in Colorado to mention but a few, all with curative waters.
These springs have been found to have varying minerals and chemicals, which have medicinal values in them. They include; sodium chloride, potassium chloride, lithium sulphate, calcium sulphate, calcium phosphate and magnesium chloride among others.
Hana Kyoshaba, a nurse says that though she has never carried out any tests on the water of the hot spring, she knows there is calcium among other minerals, which help in the process of healing.
Seeking healing at Kitagati.
Sister Rose Kataryebwa, the assistant senior nursing officer at Kitagata hospital agrees. There must be a lot of medicines in the water which we need to research about, she says. But these are not issues that seem to concern people who come here. All they care about is that they know that the water heals.
Mzee Francisco Busire who comes from Ntungamo has a cancerous wound, which he has suffered for 42years. He says it is only the Kitagata springs that gives him relief whenever the wound becomes severe. He has come here more times that he can remember to count.
This time I came when I was unable to walk, and it is now two walks and I can walk. I will stay here until all the pain is gone and then go back home, he said.
But Busire has to raise money to hire a room and buy food for the length of time he has to stay. The private rooms go for between 100 and 300 shillings per day per person.
Rosette Kundibandiho of Rakai district, around 120kms from Kitagata told Ultimate Media that she was paying 200 shillings per day. By now, January 4, 2006, she had been at the springs for approximately a week. The amount would not be much except that I do not know when my stomach problems will cure in order for me to go back home, she said.
Kundibandiho says that she knows that Kitagata will definitely cure her because she has heard many testimonies back in Rakai about the healing powers of the spring. She also believes that the water is going to heal her son of skin rashes as he had already started showing improvement in the one week they have been undergoing treatment.
The hot spring according to Kabasekye was discovered by a hunter named Kahigi in 1904 while hunting in the morning hours. Kahigi saw steam released by the spring in the morning, which attracted him to look for the origin of the smoke-like steam, only to find it was hot water oozing from the ground. From that time on, the word of the hot spring has spread especially in the area of healing, says Kabasekye, the guide.
Today, there are many people traveling to, and leaving the Kitagata springs on any day. There is a bus that goes from the Kampala to Kitagata on a daily basis, as are transport vehicles from other towns to the area.
Healing for the physically and income sick
Apart from paying for accommodation, the patients must eat. There are two ways of getting food around the Kitagata. One can cook for themselves or buy food from the makeshift eating-places. A plate of beans and matooke goes for 500 shillings while a bunch of matooke of about eight clusters goes for between 2,500 and 4,500 shillings depending on the availability of food items on a particular day. Other food like sugarcanes, yellow bananas, sweets, biscuits are also being sold at Kitagata.
As people get healed of diseases here, the locals are also healing their pockets from the curious tourists as well as the medical patents of Kitagati Springs.
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First published: January 11, 2006
John Isingoma is a member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. A social scientist by training, Isingoma is the Executive Secretary at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and after years training and practice in the media has become a dedicated writer and researcher.