Uganda is located in east Africa on the equator. It is roughly the size of the state of Oregon, with a population of approximately 35.5 million people. It is a beautiful and diverse country, encompassing savannas and rainforests, modern urban centers, and rural villages. Uganda’s annual per capita income is $715.
The AIDS epidemic ravaged the country in the 1990s. Progress has been made to contain and treat the disease but the effects continue to be felt on a widespread basis. Children have inevitably become victims of the epidemic.
Many have contracted AIDS or are HIV positive due to often avoidable transmission from mother to child. Many more have become orphaned because their parents have died from AIDS. In addition, rural areas face major health challenges due to lack of clean water and tropical diseases like malaria.
Guiding Light Orphans operates in the Masindi District in the western part of Uganda. Its four counties and 156 villages are governed by a town council. The ethnically diverse population of Masindi is made up of families and individuals from 55 different tribes, including many people who have migrated from Sudan, Rwanda, and the Congo. Masindi is one of Uganda's poorest areas and receives far less support than other districts.
With one of the worst healthcare records in the world, Uganda is now ranked 186 out of 191 nations by the World Health Organization (WHO). Life expectancy in Uganda is 56.7 years for men, 60.5 years for women, with 58.5 year as the total life expectancy; this gives Uganda a World Life Expectancy ranking of 169. The doctor-to-patient ratio in Uganda stands at 1:24,725 and the nurse-to-patient ratio is 1:11,000.
Malaria is the major cause of death in Uganda with approximately 70,000 to 100,000 Ugandans dying annually from the disease. Though many health ministries in Africa have a community health strategy with a core curriculum, they lack the capabilities to train a qualified health workforce, especially in remote rural areas like the ones GLO serves.
In the Masindi district where GLO operates, the infant mortality rate is 97 per 1000 live births and the maternal mortality rate is 500 per 100,000 live births, compared to the national averages of 76 and 435, respectively. Approximately 31% of water sources are unsafe, 22% of the children below five years are underweight, 7.4% of the population dies before 40 years of age, and only 26.4% have a decent standard of living.
Causes of the especially poor state of health in Masindi District include poorly maintained and lack of infrastructure, limited health facilities, lack of information, improper medical waste disposal, lack of proper disposal facilities, poor human excretion disposal, poor hand washing practices, lack of adequate hand washing facilities, and lack of education, amongst others.