Ugali is FOOD in Luoland. A simple, satisfying mix of ground maize and water, cooked up on a fire in a smoky mud hut. Even at Christmas or wedding celebrations where extra special dishes like fish, rice and chapatis are served…eyes will scan the table for a heavy mound of ugali. If it isn’t there, there is no FOOD.
To eat ugali you need to use only your right hand. Take a chunk and mould it into a warm, pliable ball, then push your thumb into the middle to make a hole – you have a bite-sized ‘boat’, ready to scoop up a sloppy mix of cooked leaves that usually accompanies! There is nothing quite like ugali, and as you walk home through darkening villages and fields of maize, you smell pots of it cooking over fires, making you feel like nothing more
Beyond the romance of ugali though, people with HIV/AIDS in Luoland need food to stomach their drugs. Their anti-retroviral treatment is a lifelong commitment that keeps their virus in check so they can lead healthy lives. However, it’s vital that they take the tablets with food.
When our community health workers first visit the sick, they are often in dire situations – bed-ridden and stigmatised at home, afraid of getting tested for HIV, and too weak to grow food. Our health workers set about helping them in different ways, including organising food support that helps their clients regain strength – enough to get a HIV test, and to be able to stomach their anti-retrovirals. And so things start to look up! They become healthy, return to till their fields and grow maize again, and their children go back to school. Everything spirals upwards, and one by one, the community is empowered and the future brightens.