19 Jul Visiting the US Ambassador in Kampala
We visited the US Embassy in Kampala today and had a meeting with Ambassador Deborah Malac. Entrance into the Embassy required us to lock up any food, water, cameras, telephones, flash drives and pens in our possession. Pens? It was on the list of prohibited items, but when I asked kindly, they allowed me to bring one so I could take notes.
The Ambassador was welcoming, as she thoughtfully shared some of her hopes for the future of Uganda. She spoke about the success of the Saving Mothers, Giving Life program. Now that USAID’s funding of the program is coming to an end, she is confronting the challenge of continuing the program’s success in new ways. Ambassador Malac also shared her optimism about the HIV crisis in Uganda, saying she hopes the epidemic will soon be under control. Lastly, we spoke about the Ebola outbreak right across the border from Uganda, in the Congo. Despite a handful of reported cases in Uganda, Ambassador Malac is confident that Uganda is ready. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been here for over 25 years gaining experience and building capacity.
After the visit, we spent time running errands in Kampala. My favorite part of Kampala is always the excitement on the roads. As much as I want to take a nap in the car, there is too much going on that I don’t want to miss. The population of Kampala is 1.7 million people, and I am pretty sure 1.6 million of those people are driving on the road in front of us. The traffic jams put New York to shame. Many intersections don’t have stoplights so drivers basically accelerate and hope for the best.
The addition of stoplights and roundabouts in some intersections creates a whole new set of problems. When the light is red, it seems to stay red for 10 minutes or longer. We just sit there with the windows rolled down in the blazing heat. People walk through the stopped cars selling food, drinks, toilet paper, sunglasses, foot files, and wallets.