Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS) Uganda

Becoming Visible: Tackling the Urban Health Divide in Kawempe Slum in Uganda

HEPS Uganda is a health rights organisation that advocates for increased access to affordable essential medicines for the poor and vulnerable people in Uganda. This pilot project addresses health inequity in Kampala’s poorest slum by exploring the potential of increasing community-generated research findings.

Research activities & outputs

Digital Stories from Katanga

The community of Katanga is located two kilometres from Kampala’s city centre in Uganda. The slum has over 20,000 residents and has existed for over 20 years after settlers informally divided up the land in a valley between Mulago Hospital and Makerere University.

The settlement is made up of poor quality, make shift, temporary housing typically with one room per family. Accommodation is rented from those who originally took ownership of the land leaving people in a position where they have little control over their housing needs and the costs are expensive.

These stories are made by people living in Katanga and speak of their resilience in the face of adversity and the power of volunteering.

Life in Katanga

This video tells the story of John Gilbert Okurut, living in the Katanga – one of the biggest slum areas in Kampala. John ‘Gilbert’ Okurut is a volunteer community health worker with HEPS. He is passionate about the development of youth in his community and wants to work with them to change their situation.

The narrator describes the area as one of unplanned housing littered with garbage, suffering from the health consequences of open sewage and "flying toilets". Due to these living conditions, he suffered from running stomach when he first arrived to live in Katanga. He was embarrassed to say he was from there.

Gilbert then begins to speak of charcoal brickets. He has learned to make these brickets from solid waste products and to train other locals to do the same. The idea that garbage can be useful and a source of income in an area ridden with garbage is exciting. He sees positive change in Katanga: "Katanga looks and feels cleaner. I can see change happening." And perhaps most importantly, he can now "gladly say he comes from Katanga."

This story speaks of the problems associated with rapid urbanization in Africa. It tells us about the complex inter-related nature of change; how change in one area of life can impact another, thus impacting a holistic way of being.

Disclosure of my HIV status saved me

Viola is a woman from Katanga. She is a single mother with two children who makes a livelihood through street vending of chapatti (flat bread) at a small kiosk she has constructed outside of her home. Viola told her story in her own local language. Viola’s digital story is narrated by Ruth, a community health worker because she preferred for the translation from her local language to be verbal, in English.

Today Viola describes herself as "looking strong" and is able to work to take care of her family. She is living a healthy HIV+ life on treatment, but this was not always the case.

Violeta tells the story of how at 15 she became pregnant and discovered she was HIV positive. Her landlord evicted her; her brothers and sisters rejected her.

Ruth, a volunteer from MWADA found Viola and mobilised a group to carry her to the hospital. Ruth and MWADA supported Viola through her treatment, helping her with food, counselling and ARV adherence training.

This is a story of the impact that social stigmatisation can have on those suffering from HIV and AIDS. It describes the cruelty, lack of compassion and cohesion at both the family and community levels, seeded by stigma and ignorance.

The story also speaks of the importance of community volunteers and organisations such as MWADA, and the life-saving impact they can have.