Mawuwa Matemambala, a Congolese refugee arrived in Kampala in 2016 following political unrest in her country.
In early 2017, Matemambala’s daughter (names withheld) was reportedly impregnated by a Ugandan national.
Unfortunately, the pregnancy was due at only seven months. She needed an urgent operation since she could not deliver normally.
“I first rushed her to Kibuli hospital but since I didn’t have money, the doctors referred me to Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kawempe,” she said.
On arrival to Mulago at around 3:00am on February 10, 2018, Matemambala says that she was left at the hospital veranda helpless with her daughter, “because whoever I tried to ask for help was just replying ‘I don’t know Kiswahili.’
One of the patients who understood Kiswahili advised Matembala to grab a doctor and greet him with cash since it was the only way refugees were being helped.
“It was around 3:00am and I grabbed him with Shs 50,000 and the Doctor automatically started speaking Kiswahili and started working on my daughter but when it clocked 6:00am, the Doctor went and suffering resumed,”
“When I tried to show them chits written in English asking for help, I was again showed another doctor who had replaced the first one, and still the same language I used was Shs 50,000 and he worked on us until a third doctor came in.
“This one asked for Shs 100,000 before touching my daughter. I had no money but had to pay him,” she narrated
The operation she says was conducted on February 11, 2018 and the doctor asked her to pay additional Shs 150,000 for the tablets of her daughter because they had no free medicine for her.
Matemambala is one of the over 500 female refugees who attended a Health Camp that was organized by Smart Transitions, an NGO which advocates for the safety of urban refugees in partnership with the Uganda Media Women Association (UMWA), the Public Health Ambassadors Uganda (PHAU) and Marie Stopes in Kampala on Sunday.
Refugees revealed at the event that getting medical services, especially in government Health Centers and Hospitals is extremely difficult.
“When we take a child for diagnosis for example Malaria, they charge us between Shs 15000 and Shs 20,000 yet Ugandans are charged between Shs 5000 and Shs 10000,” a refugee told Chimpreports.
Godlive Mutesi, a Rwandan Refugee who has stayed in Uganda since 2008 said refugees have been and still going through a lot of challenges and “some moments are traumatizing, stressing and menacing us,”
“There are very few hospitals and Medical Centers where refugees can go for treatment. We are discriminated. I am lucky that the time I have spent in Uganda is long so I easily understand and perfectly speak Luganda nut I hear when I go in the hospital how our fellow refugees are abused, and charged highly yet our Ugandan counterparts are freely enjoying the services at a moderate price,” she said.
Sexual Reproductive Health
The health camp was organized in response to study which conducted by Smart Transitions last year, which revealed that majority of female urban refugees had challenges in accessing the Sexual Reproductive Health Services (SRHS).
Sarah Birungi Namuddu, the Executive Director of Smart Transitions said they found out that most of the refugees did not even “have knowledge about it and that’s why we decided to come up with this health camp today.”
“Majority of the Refugees are women, out of which 70% are estimated to be of Reproductive age, and yet there is limited access to basic emergency obstetric services for the female refugees,” she said.
“We at Smart Transitions, were motivated to conduct this activity because we realized that one of our target groups, “the Urban Refugees” badly needed Sexual and Reproductive Health Services and yet, it was so expensive or not readily available,” she said adding
Speaking at the function, Laila Ndagire, the UMWA Assistant Administrator said that as women continue to celebrate their month of March, there is need to think about the marginalized women like refugees who are going through a lot of challenges.
“When we together with Smart Transition engaged them and they told us that they have challenges in accessing sexual reproductive health services, we decided to team up and organize this Camp today,”
Ndagire noted that UMWA will continue coming up with solutions to the problems that are affecting the marginalized group including women, who had been left behind.
Florence Nabukenya, the Monitoring and Evaluation officer of the public Health Ambassador Uganda (PHAU) told Chimpreports that sexual reproductive health services (SRHS) among refugees is still low, due to the influx and shortage of incentives like water especially in camps,
“They have issues with menstrual health management and water problem. So we provide them with products that need less water and keep hygienically clean,” she said.
She also noted that language barrier is also another problem but PHAU is empowering them and they reach out to their colleagues.
Data from the United High Commission for Refugees reports indicate third largest Refugee hosting Country in the world, with over 1.2 million refugees of which approximately 100,000, live in Kampala in places like; Nsambya, Kisenyi, Kansanga, Bukasa, Katwe, Mengo, Nakulabye and Kazo-Angola.