Nakivale refugee camp, Uganda
Tuesday, March 10
Sitting under a roof made of UNHCR plastic sheeting while squeezing into a mud-brick house just 8ft by 10ft, on my left is Eliza, a 40-year-old refugee from the Congo. She is a polio survivor sitting in a homemade wheelchair with a baby on her lap. To my right is Tom Cavanagh, Hollywood star and producer. Tom and I were helping Eliza hang the mosquito nets she just received this morning during a net distribution.
But possibly a better way to describe this experience would be: to my left – Eliza, an amazing woman full of life and joy. And to my right – Tom, a champion for malaria prevention and a newfound friend for all of the people in this refugee camp.
Today we joined the second to last bed net distribution needed for full coverage at the Nakivale refugee camp in Uganda. Hosting more than 40,000 refugees largely from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and Rwanda, this camp will hopefully no longer have to fight off a terrible killer, malaria. Due to the outpouring of support from Nothing But Nets donors, every bed in this camp will be covered by a life-saving Long Lasting Insecticide-Treated Net by Friday.
Later in the afternoon, we walked through the Somali zone with singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw and community health worker and Somali refugee Sheikl Niedel. We learned about the community mobilization going on around malaria prevention. Again, perhaps a better description would be: we walked through an inspiring Somali village with Gavin, every little kid’s best friend here, and Sheikl, an entrepreneurial life-saver of the Somali people.
Sheikl engaged the youth of his village to start a club and teach malaria prevention and proper net usage. The 25 youth in this club got Gavin’s full attention explaining how they go house to house every Thursday to ensure the nets are properly hung. Sheikl was our newfound hero: a few nets and amazing kids, and the mortality rate in this village has dropped to zero since nets were first distributed in this area in November.
Today was an exciting, full day with Tom and Gavin – two champions for malaria prevention and now, friends of the refugees in Nakivale.