March 27th: The Birthday All Ugandans Should Celebrate
Last week a little girl’s first birthday was marked with prayers in the remote Aojangur village of Kapelebyong District in eastern Uganda. My modest but carefully considered proposal is that the birthday of Maria Asianut Epodoi should be collectively celebrated by all Ugandans as National Science Day.
Maria was allowed to live by God’s Doctors of Soroti Hospital (after Man’s doctors at Mulago had left her to go be buried with her conjoined sister who had died at birth). Epodoi is the name of God’s surgeon who led the team of several medics that accomplished that feat which made all our hearts swell with pride in one of those rare moments that makes you so happy at being Ugandan.
In summary, Joyce Alinga was a Senior Three student who got pregnant during the Covid-19 lockdown and was delivered of conjoined twins at Amuria district hospital, but unfortunately one of the girls arrived already dead. The doctors at Amuria decided the refer the case to the regional referral hospital at Soroti, where the girl, joined to her sister’s corpse was rushed.
At Soroti RRH, the doctors prudently decided the case was too delicate to take chances with using their limited facilities, and quickly forwarded the girl with her dead sister to Mulago National Referral Hospital, praying that their better-equipped national counterparts would do the needful to save the young life.
At Mulago, according to what we all started learning in media from interviews with the Maria’s grandfather who was accompanying his dead and living granddaughters, the national health workers either neglected them or examined them and came to a decision not to operate. The grandpa said he was advised on the second day of languishing at the country’s medical centre of excellence to go back to the village and wait for the second girl to die so the two could both be buried. The accuracy of the goings-on at Mulago may never be known because the topmost health facility apparently did not write any document — a counter-referral of sorts to the home-care givers and grave diggers of Kabelebyong.
But God’s medics at Soroti decided that they would not allow the girl to die as long as they had functional heads and hands. They instructed Maria’s party to rush back to Soroti as fast as they could. Amurians and other well-wishers mobilized to hire some vehicle while God’s team led by Dr Epodoi got ready for arguably the biggest medical battle ever fought in a Ugandan hospital.
And the rest is history. The girl who was meant to be buried with her dead sister has celebrated her first birthday, alive and in good health.
Maria Asianut Epodoi’s protracted birth that lasted several days should be celebrated by Ugandans because first of all, it reminds us of the resilience our people possess, happening as it did during the hard days of partial lockdown. Secondly it reminds us of the expertise of our professionals, whichever part of Uganda they may be deployed in. But above all, it should inspire our young generation, showing them that their brains and hands can do quite a lot, and they should ignore the negative energy of those who keep saying things are not possible citing poverty. If the Soroti medics had accepted the verdict from Mulago, Maria wouldn’t be alive today.
And no time should be wasted on asking exactly why Mulago did not try to save Maria. What matters is that Soroti did.
The Soroti medics are not the only daring scientists of Uganda today. In fact, I was amused to read in the top Kenyan daily business newspaper of April 2nd about a smart businessman Jit Bhattacharya who left Uganda during the lockdown and set up in Kenya, and is now celebrated for pioneering electric ‘buses’ in Kenya. He is set to unveil the first two electric ‘buses’ in Kenya (25 seaters Ugandans just generally call “Coaster”) before the end of the year. The Kenyans are excited, that they are poised to take a crucial first step to cut vehicular emissions in Nairobi. Commentators are now talking of Nairobi as being set to become a clean air city and ‘climate change’ is the catchword as they celebrate Jit’s innovation in their land. This is very good for Kenya.
One little correction for the Kenyan publishers though: Jit’s 25 seaters they are so anxiously waiting for are by the end of the year are NOT the first electric buses in Africa. It is well over two years now since Ugandan-designed, Uganda-built 100% electric buses have been in constant use. Ugandans no longer see the Kayoola EVS as a novelty but these beautiful luxury city buses that have been plying the 46-kilometre Airport — City Centre route since 2020 have now each logged close to 50,000, without a hitch.
This tells a lot to Ugandans. The general belief, and fact, is that Kenya is the regional industrial powerhouse. But then, as far as green mobility is concerned, Ugandan engineers have been early starters, far ahead of most of Africa. Not only are they designing and building the electric buses in close collaboration with the national military, the Kiira Motors Corporation plant at Jinja is nearly complete. So, Kampala has the ability and the means to beat Nairobi and all African cities in cutting emissions that are currently causing about twenty times more deaths a year that COVID-19 has claimed in two years.
In Agriculture, the national agricultural research organization has done head spinning work over the past few decades. Their output has changed farming in countries around Uganda, and to an extent in Uganda itself.
In medicine, the Mulago — Makerere complex has done tremendous and varied researches that cannot be eclipsed by managerial hitches like the conjoined twins’ saga, the persistent organ trade allegations and the suspicious running of private commercial pharmacies on its premises over which the media shouted itself hoarse for four years.
Such are just examples to reassure Ugandans that they have an inspiring corps of scientists ready to put the country at par with the developed world in finding solutions to the country’s health and technical needs. Our scientists need a day of recollection, stock taking and regrouping on the calendar.
The Americans celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday as a public holiday every year. Uganda can celebrate Maria Asianut Epodoi’s birthday, even without making it a public holiday. We already celebrate February 6th to honour our armed forces without taking a public holiday. We can celebrate March 27th to honor our scientists without taking a holiday.