Uganda Martyrs' Walk to Raise Shs 500 Million for Children's Hearts
KAMPALA - Uganda Tourism Board is bidding to make this year's Martyrs' Day a special one by organizing a walk to retrace the footsteps of the Uganda martyrs. Participating pilgrims will discover the unknown places around Kampala where some of the martyrs were tortured and killed. Proceeds from the unique initiative will help save a child's life at the Uganda Heart Institute.
Participants are to part with Shs 30,000 each.
The walk, which is scheduled for Sunday, June 1, ahead of martyrs' day on Tuesday, June 3, kicks off at 8am at Old Kampala SS, through St. Matia Mulumba church in Old Kampala where the oldest martyr was killed, before heading to Rubaga road where Jean Marie Musoke Muddembuga Muzeeyi was killed.
The pilgrims will then head to Mengo, formerly called Nkaawo, Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC), once Buganda katikkiro's residence and office, Fr Lourdel's first burial grounds in Nalukolongo (a place that Kabaka Mwanga gave to the missionaries), and Busega where the burnt bodies of the first group of martyrs were dumped.
Registration for the walk starts on May 12 at the Uganda Tourism Board offices at National Theatre, Garden City, Entebbe International Airport and Kololo. According to UTB deputy Chief Executive Officer, John Ssempebwa, all proceeds from the 10km walk will go towards saving lives of children at the Uganda Heart Institute.
Ssempebwa said they hope to raise $200,000, which is enough to save about 200 children with heart problems. Uganda Heart Institute director Dr John Omagino said the situation of children with heart disease is alarming.
Of the estimated 1.6 million babies born every year, one per cent has a heart defect, which adds up to about 16,000 babies born with heart problems annually. Of the 16,000 children, Dr Omagino said, at least 50% (approximately 8,000 babies) require intervention to live a meaningful life.
"Unfortunately, we don't have the capacity to reach all those children," Dr Omagino said.
"There is a big backlog. Many children are loitering in hospitals, shrines, churches and homes in need of help."
Dr Omagino added that the institute gets about 1,000 children every year seeking heart problem diagnosis. Over the last two years, the institute has registered some 900 children who are in need of urgent heart operations, but because of lack of money, these are on 'waiting list.'
"The actual word is that they are on death row because their parents cannot afford $1,000," Ssempebwa said, adding: "With $1,000, you can save a life."
Only 3% of Ugandans can afford heart operations, Dr Omagino says, citing the high cost involved especially with most cases being referred abroad where it costs as much as $15,000.
At the Uganda Heart Institute, such complicated cases would cost between $5,000 to 7,000.
However, in most cases the institute is busy handling simple cases which cost $1,000, which Dr Omagino says is still too high for many families to afford. The institute gets only Shs 466m for operational costs a year, which Dr Omagino says is grossly inadequate.