Reaching out to alleviate Uganda corn dust breathing problems
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2019/09/reaching-out-to-alleviate-uganda-corn-dust-breathing-problems/
By Patty Huston-Holm
Beyond clothing and electronic shops, banks and markets and across from a Kaptura Road taxi park – just a 15-minute walk or 3-minute boda ride from the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Mukono main gate – men and women are manufacturing maize products. White dust from harvesting, drying, handling, processing and storing grain fills the air, covering worker hands and faces and entering their lungs. Often, the simple act of breathing is a struggle.
These Mukono milling employees are among one billion people worldwide with respiratory conditions. According to the World Health Organization (February 2019), diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and pulmonary hypertension are more common in low-income countries like Uganda. When people need money for basic necessities and to keep a factory afloat, they focus less on health awareness and workplace precautions – to the detriment of their personal well-being.The dust they inhale contains bacteria, fungal spores, insects and insect debris and pesticide residue.
UCU’s Business and Administration programs, namely staff and students in human resources studies, embraced the issue in the first of annual planned community outreaches in June of 2019. In addition to outreach to choose and research the issue, a day of local maize-flour, heath and safety activities was conducted to take UCU student learning and faculty teaching deeper into the surrounding community.
“We saw people working in the community mills and not protecting themselves,” said David Kibuuka, a Business and Administration lecturer who coordinated the effort. “They weren’t covering their noses and didn’t know why they should.”
The UCU Business and Administration faculty members, in collaboration with local, municipal and district council and national officials, determined they wanted to do a better job with sharing university knowledge for improvement of the community around them and to reinforce Christian principles of servanthood. The milling engagement is one example of how the department should better “penetrate our potential,” Kibuuka said.
What took place in June of 2019 was this:
Relevance – That nearly every Ugandan household uses maize flour made this focus particularly relevant. A USAID report in April 2018 estimated that 92 percent of Ugandan families consume maize four with a per person consumption of 22 kg (48.5 pounds) of maize per year. A doughy posha, which comes from a maize flour product, is an inexpensive and frequent food, especially in schools.
Collaboration – Municipal and district council and national officials were part of the planning and reinforced the country’s regulations as well as concern for worker health and safety. These included Mukono Mayor George Fred Kagimu; Andrew Senyonga, chair of Mukono District Council; Annet Musinguzi, assistant commissioner of human resources in the Office of the Prime Minister of Uganda; and Douglas Nkonge, Principal Inspector General for Safety and Health Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
Engagement – Nearly 300 UCU students and staff, officials and factory employees participated in skits and conversation about life-altering impacts of pulmonary conditions and solutions for improved heath in the mills.
“We covered laws, risks and remedies,” said Kibuuka, who assembled a 20-page report with happenings, recommendations and photos. “It was the first of what we are calling our larger outreach.”
He noted that the Business and Administration faculty has been engaged in “entrepreneurship fairs” for the past few years. These involve student development of products and services in such areas as cleaning products, jam, beauty products and paper bags.
“This outreach went deeper to embrace a community problem and being part of the solution,” he said. “In addition to reaching out to our local residents, our students benefit from seeing how theory is put into practice in a humanitarian way.”
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