Month Four Final Assignment: Children of the Sun

dr edonna
Posted October 16, 2009 from Uganda

Grace Edube Nabukeera is an administrative assistant with New Vision newspaper during the hours of 9-5, but after that she transforms into a n activist for Mtoto Wa Jua (Child of the Sun), an NGO based in Masaka whose main purpose is to raise awareness about the harmful effects of over-exposure to ultra-violet radiation, from the sun. As Africans, we were endowed with natural sun protection due to the melanin content in our skin, which gives us our rich color; therefore we find it difficult to understand why we need to now use sun protection. Tradition tells us that we are naturally protected and need no other protection, so we find it difficult to understand the vision and purpose of Mtoto Wa Jua. However, global warming has increased the impact of UVR thus increasing its impact, especially in Uganda. Uganda is an equatorial country that has one of the largest amounts of UV exposure, yet little education outside of MTOTO is being conducted on this problem. Overexposure to UVR; -Lowers the immune system thus increasing the risk of diseases -Reduces the effectiveness of vaccines

Given the high incidence of HIV/AIDS in Uganda, non-protection from UVR, could be playing a vital role in HIV transmission and other opportunities infectious diseases, if it continues to be ignored. Therefore Mtoto WA Jua’s vision is to spread public awareness about his problem, especially among the most vulnerable groups such as infants and young children. Infants and toddlers in Uganda, are carried all day in the sun on their mothers back, as she works in the fields to provide food for here family. Women in Uganda represent over 80% of agricultural workers. Infants and toddlers up to the age of 18 months are particularly vulnerable due to the opening on their frontal lobes, which allows the UVR to pose greater damage. School age children who are forced to cut and shave their hair off are also at great risk from over exposure. Another risk of UVR is the negative effects it has on the eyes. According to Mtoto, over 3 million cases of blindness exist in Uganda along with its precursor being cataracts that develop as a result of a lack of protection from the sun. Equatorial countries such as Uganda are said to the cataract capital of the world. Grace became involved in Mtoto to raise her voice because she feels few Ugandan women have one, and she wants to be among the change makers, she is also a member of a women’s empowerment group whose goals are to grow and change.

Solution “We need the government to get involved in the issues, I noticed that every time I see the President and First Lady, they always wear a sun hat on their head so they must know of this problems. Therefore, we need; -Government sensitizing programs -Funding to distribute brochures to health centers and to conduct awareness outreach programs in schools -Plant trees in schools to provide shade for the children -Multimedia campaigns

If they can reach out and educate more mothers on the issues, they will be educating a nation. For more information, contact www.mwj_childofthesun.org.

Voices of Our Future Assignment: Op-eds

Comments 4

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JaniceW
Oct 24, 2009
Oct 24, 2009

dear Dr. Edonna, This is interesting insight into a problem one would not normally associate with people of darker skin colour but highlights just how important lowering the risk of sun exposure is to everyone. I would be interested to know if the government has taken any measures at all to address this problem.

As I had mentioned before, Australia and New Zealand take this issue very seriously due to the risks of exposure, as a result of the hole in the ozone layer over these countries. School uniforms include hats and UV sensitive badges are pinned to children’s clothing at lunchtime to measure sun exposure during this period at school. Outdoor multi-purpose structures provide sun and rain protection, and also provide a refuge for children excluded from playing in the sun under the Australian 'No hat, play in the shade' rule. There is also extensive media coverage highlighting the issue on radio and television, and throughout the schools, just prior to the spring and summer months.

I wish Grace all the best in her efforts to inform her community of the dangers of sun exposure and thank you for bringing this to our attention. Best wishes, Janice

dr edonna
Oct 25, 2009
Oct 25, 2009

Not yet, but I think that if Child of the Sun continues to do their work and can find support and ways to bring it to the governments attention, I think it will happen since, they seem to be aware of the problem. Ever picture we have seen of the first lady and the President outside, they are wearing sun hats, so they must have some awareness of the problem. Given the UV exposure here in Uganda, we mostly see the effects on the eyes and most probably the immune system. I will send Ronell the information on what your country is doing to see if she can incorporate it into her program. This is the founder of the organization. Again, thanks!

Jennifer Ruwart
Oct 27, 2009
Oct 27, 2009

I am finally catching up on my reading! This is an interesting topic and I agree with Janice, not one I would associate with people of rich color. (I love how you describe darker skin) Yet, it's true that we all need to protect ourselves from UV exposure - not just our skin, but our eyes, too.

I am curious is skin cancer is an issue at all?

dr edonna
Oct 27, 2009
Oct 27, 2009

Greetings Jennifer; No skin cancer is not a problem, but you can say eye cancer or tumors is a problem, not just in Uganda, but also in Ethiopia, so it is a grave issue, that we must face and deal with given the UVR's coming through in this space. I find it interesting, that not even my African sisters have responded to this issue, only my European sisters, so what does that tell you. Unfortunately we have a long way to go, I am going to sponsor them to come and do a workshop at my son's school thanks to the funds you percured for the other project in February. Thanks so much for all your support, you have big shoes for Scott to walk in but I am sure he will do well. Please let me know when you make your journey to Nairobi, I know I shall meet you some day there. Much love to you and your family.