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