By Paul Mayambala
Rwenshama landing site in Rukungiri was last year reported as having one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in Uganda with 36 percent of the population infected. This statistic stood like a sore sight considering that the national HIV prevalence average is about 6%.
Today, albeit the relatively high prevalence rates, there is a sharp increase in the number of people voluntarily testing for HIV at Rwenshama landing site.
A mass education program initiated by a new born organization, Better Living Advocacy Forum (BLAF), has come as a welcome relief to the predominantly fishing community. The program was launched on February 9, 2019.
According to the director of Better Living Advocacy Forum (BLAF) Ronah Mpamira, they intend to improve the livelihood of the people through reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDs, maternal mortality rate, and mobility, in the rural areas of the targeted districts.
“Key among our agenda is to increase knowledge among the communities on how to identify and develop individual potentials especially for the young in a bid to reduce on redundancy which exposes youth to risky behaviours and hence HIV transmission. We also expect to conduct 24 behavioral change communication (BCC) seminars for youth,” she revealed.
She also explains that being a fishing village with soils are clay and sand which do not support agriculture, BLAF is looking to offer skill development training to the youth and the general community in commercial fish farming methods, which will improve on their livelihoods.
In addition to that, BLAF also intends to provide financial management skills to the community through training and creating a community savings scheme usually called “ekigombe” which would improve the standard of living of the fishermen
Data from the Rukungiri Gender and Development Association indicates that behavioral change has been noted specifically among the youth. The challenge is now to enable people infected with HIV to access anti-retroviral drugs. Rwenshama is about 50 kilometers from the nearest health center, which is not stocked with anti-retroviral drugs.
A recent report on the impact of HIV/AIDS on fishing communities in Uganda blames the high prevalence rates along the shores of Lake Albert on the shared border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and influx of migrants, refugees and temporary fish traders.
Quick facts about Rwenshama
Rwenshama fish landing site is located in Rukungiri District on the shores of Lake Edward. It is about 60km from Rukungiri municipality, 7km from katunguru-ishasha road on river Ncwera Bridge. It is a few miles from the DRC border. The landing site with a population of 3,000 people was established in 1954 by then Kigezi District. Rwenshama is the key supplier of smoked fish (semutundu) in Kampala markets. Other fish is supplied in local markets whereas salted and fresh fish is sold in DRC.