AJ KIEHNER PRODUCER
BELLA COCHRANE JOURNALIST
SPENCER BAKALAR PHOTOGRAPHER
n June seven UNC students armed with tripods, audio equipment and several camera lenses, flew to Oxford for a week packed with interviews. Five days later you could find these same students in Kampala, Uganda. For a month they traveled throughout this East African country, documenting UNICEF and Pamperâ€™s joined efforts to eliminate a preventable diseaseâ€”maternal and neonatal tetanus. Determined to capture the story and driven by the kindness of the people
they met, each student hoped to return home having made a difference. In August, The World Health Organization declared Uganda free of Maternal and Neonatal tetanus. We, the seven students who set out with a mission to make a difference, could not be more proud to have been a part of this effort and we would like to thank you for allowing us to document your amazing work. Alacada Noi.
BRIDGE OF SIGHS, OXFORD
SAID BUSINESS SCHOOL, OXFORD
heir names are Augustus and Sunday. They’re seated across from me, hands resting lightly on their thighs. It’s 85 degrees outside, but Sunday is wearing a thick wool sweater. The lines around their mouths are deeply set, a crease parts both of their eyebrows. We’re seated on the back porch of the Kicaber Support Organization for war victims. A couple of the window panes behind Sunday and Augustus are busted and shouts are echoing from the neighboring village.
Slowly both men take turns telling me their story—a story of abduction, rape and murder. A story of their teenage years. In 1987, Joseph Kony formed the Lord’s Resistance Army, to fight against the government. For more than two decades conflict raged between the Uganda People’s Defense Force and Kony’s rebel warriors, leading to the internal displacement of 2,000,000 Ugandans from their homes. Rebel soldiers used brutal tactics, including
mutilation, abduction and rape. More than 66,000 children were forced to fight as part of the rebel force, according to the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. Augustus and Sunday hold out their arms and roll up their pant legs to show me scars from the war. They tell me about their frustration with the government, the pain they’ve suffered after years of acting as a weapon. They tell me about being forced to beat other children to death. Their words fall heavy on my ears and I feel every muscle in my body tense. Augustus tells me about his escape. His decision to risk his life in hopes of regaining the one he lost. He tells me about the hunger pains, his fear of wild animals, of looting villages. Sunday holds a crinkled tissue in his right hand, occasionally using it to wipe his moist eyes. The questions I had prepared for this interview float away and instead I’m rooted to my seat, listening. After two hours of talking, they lead me around the house, proudly showing Spencer and myself their office
space. It is dark and cramped and like many buildings in Uganda it looks worn and beaten. They are all smiles, thanking me repeatedly for listening to their story. Before I get into the van to leave, I hug them, wrapping my arms around the padded sweater of Sunday and the tall lean frame of Augustus. I will never know what it’s like to beat a human being to death with a stick, to be ripped from my home in the middle of the night, to have a machine gun thrust into my hands. But these men do and despite it all, they welcomed a naïve “mzungu” into their memories. They told me things that most people would never want to admit. Sitting across from them that June day on the back porch, I tried to see Augustus and Sunday 20 years ago as teenage soldiers armed to kill. But I couldn’t. They were simply men with stories to tell—stories that changed my life. I would like to thank Augustus and Sunday for reliving that night in 1987 when they were taken from their home, for telling me about their religious experiences with Joseph Kony, for talking to a girl who has never before seen death.
BUGANDA ROAD PRIVATE SCHOOL KAMPALA, UGANDA
hey sit in perfect lines, each collared shirt and pink jumper replicating the girl beside of her. A nurse in a blue shift with the Always logo imprinted on her left breast stands at the front of the classroom. “How are you girls,” she asks the classroom of perfect posture and attention. “We are well thank you. How are you,” the girls respond in perfect unison. They are militant in performance, answering questions as one synchronized body. When a girl answers a question correctly, the entire classroom claps in a unified rhythm. These 8-13 year olds are students at the Buganda Road Private School. An
Always spokesperson has come to teach them about puberty and what to expect during their transition into womanhood. Her lecture acts as both an education and a marketing campaign to promote Always pads. While we shoot pictures, gather footage and take notes on the classrooms chipping paint, the faded laminated sheets of paper strung by clothesline from wall to wall and the busted window panes, each girl remains stoic and mature. Not one girl fidgets in her seat. When the session ends the girls collect one free Always pad each and are
dismissed from the classroom. We follow suit, stepping into an open walkway where small children peek at us from the sharp edges of broken window panes. A cement courtyard with crater-like holes and crumbling edges is in the middle of the buildings. Suddenly a bell rings and tiny children tumble from doorways—the sharp jagged edges of shattered glass framing their little faces as they rush through. Militant composure is completely gone. They yell and scream, reaching up my arms like water lapping at the sides of a pool. They all want to touch us and our
cameras. I snap pictures of several of the small boys and girls and turn the camera to show them their happy faces. Hundreds of little hands reach out to touch the camera screen, and small dark heads block my own view of my hands. From over the top of their heads I see a small girl in a dingy jumper bend down into the red dust and pick up a nail. One small boy in a moth eaten burgundy sweater and dirty khaki shorts looks up at me from the pile of children swarming in my lap and says, “Let me take a picture of you.” Cautiously I hand him the camera. He snaps a shot and then asks if he can take another picture, this one of Cole, who is surrounded by more excited children.
Hundreds of children rush at us, holding their hand up for high fives and yelling “Hello.” Cole, who is using his iPhone to video the mob-like crowd, squatts for a second to show the happy faces the video. At least 60 children rush at him. An aerial shot would show the crown of a white-blonde head peeking out from a mass of dark heads and limbs. It takes us 10 minutes to walk 10 feet to the van, dingy school uniforms trailing us, tiny hands outstretched and waving. We definitely gave these children a burst of excitement for the day. But I wish I could have given them more. I wish I could have fixed those jagged broken windows, cleaned every nail from the red dusty ground, and given each child a camera of his own.
MULAGO HOSPITAL KAMPALA, UGANDA
eds, greens, geometric patterns and bright tie-dyed fabrics are tangled in a mass on the open walkway. About 20 women are seated on the Mulago Hospital balcony, white swathed bundles clasped in their arms. The wind whips at the blankets covering their seated bodies. From the platform I can see other parts of the hospitalâ€”nurses, doctors, visitors and patients pacing through the walkways. These mothers are listening to a lecture from an employed Pampers nurse. She speaks in Lugandan, holding up diapers and pointing at a poster. The mothers and their newborns will be allowed to leave after the lectureâ€”about 24 hours after giving birth. I lean against the stair
railing in the background. Suitcases, bags, floral print blankets, and empty cartons litter the staircase, making it an impossible exit or fire escape plan. In the next room, 30 beds hold women sleeping and resting. This is the c-section ward, where women rest for at least three days before they are released. Their faces show signs of exhaustion, as do the beds and the infrastructure. Paint is chipping everywhere and we are warned to wash our hands immediately if we touch the ground or any piece of metal. The nurses are concerned we might contract a disease. I am standing in this Ugandan hospital taking notes on my surroundings, jotting quotes and burning the images of these
new mothers into my memory. My six other UNC teammates are bustling about the balcony, filming and photographing the Pampers lecture. Underneath my feet a discarded coca cola cap scraps the cement. One woman, resting on a bed in the corner near the door, is lying on her side, her hands clasped together between her thighs. A tub of lip solvent and a hair brush sit on the wood-wall siding above her head. The age of the mothers in the room is ambiguous and basically irrelevant. The average Ugandan woman will produce six to eight children during her lifetime. Benedict Kisa, one of the nurses on staff in the maternal ward said 200-300 births happen daily at Mulago Hospital,
and young pregnancies are common. Treatment at the hospital is free. A newborn starts to wail from within a little white bundle and slowly more and more babies chime in. We walk through the waiting rooms and interview some of the nurses. Countless women with their mothers and friends are lying on the floor waiting to be seen. The fathers, brothers, uncles appear to be missing in action. Instead, there are only lines and lines of women. The next hospital we visit is Lubago, a private hospital created in the 1970s by a group of missionaries. Unlike our first hospital experience, Lubago is closed-in with light barely filtering in through small windows. We are led into a room called St. Catherine where another Pampers nurse is lecturing a room full of wom-
en about healthy practices for their newborns. Bed-like cots are spaced throughout the room and numerous women were sitting on the ends, their babies lying on the same paper-thin mattress, blankets covering their bodies entirely. I stood in the back of the dark pungent smelling room, in front of a lifesize poster of a sleeping baby and in between two beds. I look down to my right and see tiny little fingers folded and clasped under a tiny chin. The curve of a nose peeks out beyond the edge of a white and brown floral-print sheet, which is folded multiple times to fit the length of the babyâ€™s body. The babyâ€™s mother sits on the end of the bed gazing up at the nurse speaking in Lugandan. As the nurse talks, mothers are frequently called from the room to receive their medi-
cal bill. The heat makes my muscles ache. It felt like I had been baked into a St. Catherine pie, dense with maternal care. To my left I can hear the sucking sounds of a baby nursing, as his mother pats his back. Unlike Mulago, Lubago is not a free hospital, yet its windows are still cracked, its paint is still chipping and countless women are still in lines waiting. Isabella Cochrane is a senior journalism major at UNC-Chapel Hill. This past summer she interned with a nonprofit media company in Austin, Texas called Students of the World. In June, Students of the World sent her and six fellow UNC students to Uganda to document Pampers and UNICEFâ€™s campaign to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in the country.
six foot grey wall of woven sticks is in front of me. I duck down, peering through a two foot high doorway. My knees and hands scrape the chalky dirt as I crawl into the Stone Age. I have just crawled through a manyata, a small doorway in a wall surrounding a village on the suburbs of the Kotido district. As many as 300 people go about their daily life in the maze of stick walls weaving in and out of the huts. I am greeted by hungry eyes and bulging bellies. Many of the children wear tattered clothing; one toddler’s upper lip is crusted with snot. Ashy dust and flies cling to his face. Most of the young boys are naked. Almost all are decorated with brightly colored Karamoja beads.
I follow our translator through the maze-like tunnels—bonewhite sticks woven together reach higher than my head. After many winding turns and several more entranceways I have to crawl through, I finally reach a plot where a woman is working. In front of her, two mud huts are side by side. The woman is barefoot. She spreads a mixture of seeds on an animal skin stretched out on the ground. Her baby wails in the dirt. A small girl, about 5 years old, walks toward the child, picks up the wailing infant and straps it onto her frail torso with a blue blanket, it’s little body forming a papoose in the arching curve of her back. She flashes a smile at me and rocks her entire body to try to sooth the crying child. She wears no shirt and no shoes. A dirty skirt brushes her mud
stained calves. The Mother continues her work. She crawls back and forth between the hut and the spread of seeds. The hut she built with her own hands. If it were any other day she tells us through a translator that she would be working in her garden, which is about a kilometer from the village or walking to town to find work. She tells the translator to tell us she and her children often go hungry. This is the life of a Karamoja woman. The village walls and most of the mud huts are built by women. Naduku Margaret, a mother of four children, built her hut with the help of her husband five years ago. It took her a year to complete the project—six months to find and gather the materials and six more months of construction.
Unlike Naduku, many women build their hut by themselves, while the men take up “warrior” duties. The men’s attire is sometimes more elaborate than the women, involving a checker patterned cloth wrapped around the body, a fez hat with a feather, orange, yellow, and white necklaces, white armband bracelets, and hoop earrings with a bicycle reflector dangling from the ring. They spend their days herding sheep and cattle. While riding in the UN caravan, dressed in my bullet-proof vest, I’ve seen the men napping in the shade of a tree—their heads propped up on small whittled stools they carry with them everywhere—or seated in the fields—their bottoms balancing on the small whittled stool and their staff stuck into the ground beside of them. They are eccentric, ostentatious characters. Characters that are probably better described in caricatures, but their wild hats and gaudy earrings don’t hint at the other aspects
of their job—a job which requires me to wear an army helmet and a metal-plated vest while traveling. Many of these warriors are raiders and have killed in order to obtain more cattle and livestock. The violent lifestyle of the people living in North Eastern Uganda stems from the accessibility of weapons abandoned by Sudanese Civil War soldiers, gun supplies from the Democratic Republic of Congo, private weapon peddlers and gun markets, according to a 2007document by the global facilitation network for security sector reform. Naduku’s husband, named Lokello John, was shot a month ago while herding his own livestock. Seated beside his wife, as we conduct a translated interview, he describes the event. The raiders took money from his pocket and stole his sheep, leaving him unconscious lying in the dirt. He was found soon after the attack and taken
to the health center in Kotido. Lokello sits in front of me. His torso is bare with the exception of a green checkered toga and a white sling that supports a full arm cast. A hole is cut into the cast, exposing a stitched wound. The skin looks grey and decomposed. In a month, he says he will go back to the health facility and have the cast removed. Until then, he is crippled from any hard labor involving his arm. I ask him if he feels any anger toward the people who have temporarily disabled him. “No, this is what god wills,” he responds. Two nights ago, he tells me, more raiders attacked his village and tried to steal cattle from the corral. “Luckily,” the raiders were unsuccessful because some of the villages own men warded them off with gun shots. This is the life of a Karamoja villager.
BUGANDA ROAD PRIVATE SCHOOL KAMPALA, UGANDA
PHOTOGRAPHS: SPENCER BAKALAR STORIES: ISABELLA COCHRANE DESIGN: BLAIR WARREN