I bless the rains down in Africa

Right now, there is a torrential downpour happening in Kampala. And while I still have electricity and my neighbor’s shared Internet access to write this, I thought I would comment on the rains in Africa.

As I noted in my Murchison Falls post next to the striking picture of the storm sweeping the savannah, the Toto song “Africa” comes in my head with every rainfall. There’s a certain romanticism for me to an African rainstorm perhaps. National Geographic programs and pictures, the Toto song, and PBS television programs shaped my idea of the African rainstorm as a child and adult, a life-giving force to parched land.

And then during one rain episode I was in what the Ugandan health home visitor team calls a “slummy area,” one of the areas where we recruit research participants. My romantic notions were immediately tempered. The streets literally flooded in minutes due to poor infrastructure and drainage. Roads were flooded even as we drove uphill. I had never seen an inclined road flooded until then.

I remember hearing stories of what floods would do in the Kawangware and Kibera squatter settlements in Nairobi, Kenya, but it was in Nalukolongo zone of Kampala that I watched the trainwreck unfold. The rain floods create many problems.

First, sewage mixes in with the water creating a public health problem. (Cholera outbreaks still occur here, although more often in more rural towns.) Second, people are stranded to wherever they can safely find passage above the water. This is turn, thirdly, leads to decreased economic movement during rainy season and during the rain periods themselves, which people cannot afford. Homes may flood if the threshold to the house is not cemented inches well above the ground level. Transportation by bike and boda-boda is halted and some roads are impassable by most cars.

One day, as I was accompanying Hassard, one of the health home visitors, to interview for my pilot study, we could not reach one of the participants because of the rain aftermath in Nalukolongo. An instant swamp divided us from another part of the community.

The rain is a mixed blessing. Toto was on to something when the group sang the song I suppose. Bless the rains, but now after these experiences I will also be thinking about the people who are affected both positively and negatively by them.

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One Response to “I bless the rains down in Africa”

  1. Rain continued « JustIn Uganda Says:

    […] Rain continued By healingnumenor I wrote some ruminations on rain previously at: https://healingnumenor.wordpress.com/2008/11/02/i-bless-the-rains-down-in-africa/ […]

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