Uganda is a landlocked country in eastern Africa. Uganda gained independence from Britain in 1962 and maintains much of its British history, including the English language. While English is the official language, others adhere to the national tongue of Luganda and forty different languages are regularly used. Since 1986, Uganda has experienced fairly peaceful conditions under a democratically elected government. Civil strife still exists in the north near the border with Sudan, but is suppressed by the Ugandan military to a large extent.
Uganda ranks as one of the poorest nations in the world, although recent economic reforms have helped to improve the economy. Agriculture makes up a large portion of the economy with coffee as its main export. The service industry also employs many people.
The population of Uganda is over 32 million people with a median age of 15 years. Unlike much of the rest of Africa, Uganda has done a good job of suppressing HIV infection. Infant mortality is listed as 79 deaths per 1,000 and life expectancy is 50 years. In 2007, Uganda had about 1,150 doctors for a population of about 30.9 million, according to the United Nations Population Fund. One doctor attended to about 26,000 patients. In 2007, the country had only 7,700 nurses for a population of 30.9 million. There was only one nurse per 4,000 patients.
Aside from being the largest city in Uganda, Kampala is the capital city. More than 1.2 million people call this bustling city home. An additional 1 million people commute from outlying communities into Kampala to work every day. Yet 39% of Kampala’s population lives in absolute poverty and 43% is unemployed. A large majority of these impoverished have ended up in overcrowded slums that have a population density as high as 14,000 people per square kilometer. It is in one of these slums (called the Kawenpe slum) in the northwest section of the city that Project Helping Hands' teams provide care. Conditions are appalling with most people living in one room shanties that lack electricity, running water and sewer. Prostitution is rampant. Families of 8 to 10 people share these small dwellings. Water accumulates quickly in the areas between the small homes when it rains, setting up a foci for numerous waterborne infections. Healthcare is non-existent and infectious diseases as well as chronic conditions abound.