SHELTER PROVISION TO BATWA FAMILIES.
As one way of giving the Batwa hope of a better life, the organization in collaboration with local communities, friends and international communities, constructs simple but better houses compared to the traditional Batwa huts for some Batwa people. This is done in collaboration with them meanwhile teaching them how to cope up with new and improved lifestyles of mankind. It is inconceivable how a family of 7 members or more stays in a hut with one open room. The only room inside serves as a kitchen, sitting and dining and a bed room form the entire family!
VISIT THE BATWA (Who are the Batwa/Pygmies)
The history of the Batwa is a tragic one. Located in Southwestern Uganda adjoining the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC) is an exceptional and isolated portion of the jungle called the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest . This woodland together with Echuya and Mgahinga forests in Uganda, Kahuzi-Biega and Virunga in Eastern DRC, and Nyungwe in Rwanda are habitats to an incredible array of mammals, birds and plant life and within its borders lays one half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas. Along with this perfusion of flora and fauna, the jungle also has an indigenous people-Batwa (the pygmies). The term pygmy denotes the ancient dwellers of the forest, described as short stature people, commended for their talents as dancers and story tellers. Traditionally, the Batwa were hunters and food gatherers. They survived by hunting small game by means of poison tipped arrows or nets and gathering a variety of flora and fruit that the jungle naturally supplies.
In early 1990’s, Bwindi Impenetrable and other areas around it were gazetted as national parks and world heritage sites to protect the endangered mountain gorillas within their confines. Good news for the gorillas but bad news for the Batwa, for in this course, over 3000 Batwa who had lived within this vicinity were evicted. The ancestral land rights of the Batwa ever since, have never been recognized by their governments and no reimbursement has been made for their lost land. The last stroke to break the camels back has been the clearing of the forests for agriculture, development projects, logging and creation of conservation areas. This has forced myriads of Batwa to leave these areas and currently majorities are landless and live in abject poverty. A single visit to any of their settlements is bound to be a strange and heartbreaking experience to you.
Due to their pygmy lineage, they have continued to suffer ethnic bigotry, bias, aggression, broad exclusion from the public and are often ignored in discussions. Batwa children have little or no access at all to education and their population has fractional representation in local and national government. It is strange and shocking that a neonatal mortality rate of Batwa is around 18% contrasted with that in the US of 0.7% and an under five mortality of 38% compared with a US statistic of 0.8% and a Ugandan average of 18%! The fertility rate is low because they produce another child only when the youngest is a toddler and it is readily apparent that if something is not done in time, these people will soon extinct.
Investigation has revealed a significant problem in these pygmies who remain landless. Their children under age 6 in this sub-group have a mortality rate of 59%. Almost 7 out of 10 children die before attaining their sixth birthday due to malnutrition. This is simply because their families have no food and other necessities to care for these vulnerable young ones. It shouldn’t sound strange to your ears if one puts it that these Batwa are currently living at the edge of existence!
One might think of these people as primitive and incapable to adapt to the tone of the contemporary world. This isn’t the case. They are able bodied and have all the potentials to innovative changes and this is attested by the performance of pupils already in primary schools. They are performing excellently though they lack scholastic materials and alike. A great deal of work remains to be accomplished. The schools need to be engorged and supplementary facilities need to be constructed in these remote pygmy settlements. Equally, the Health Care assistance to this secluded populace needs enhancement with permanent and temporally treatment centers.
They live in small temporary huts constructed with leaves and branches which are deserted after a few months when they reposition to a different part of the woodland in hunt of new supplies of food. Use of blankets at night is more or less out of their vocabulary and this has left a good number of them especially the young ones dead due to pneumonia caused by night coldness. The tools used outstandingly remain pre-stone age which include; arrow tips which are just fire-hardened and wood sharpened sticks for digging and cutting. Until recently, this indigenous group of people seems to exist in this alien jungle much as they have for the last thousands of years.
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