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Uganda’s Ssegirinya Muhammad is a modern day Henry Dunant, Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale

(Last Updated On: 13 November 2023)

“We like it or not, Ssegirinya Muhammad is our modern day hero….,” Mugeni.

  By James William Mugeni

United States of America—18 October 18, 2020: Editor, darkness looms over Uganda as the military reins terror and havoc over Ugandans. The image of a young lady crying for help and perhaps bleeding to death from a blast that shattered her hand is a sad story of the action of the military on non-combative civilians. It also casts a dark image of medical practice in Uganda.

Not long ago, I had this to say in the State-owned newspaper: Equip police medic emergency response. This was after seeing so many casualties dying for just lack of first aid.

Someone is shot and left to bleed to death, even if the person who shot them is at the scene. I watch scenes of crimes in the USA where the police themselves try their best to save a life of their victims. They shoot and offer first aid. This is never the case in Uganda at all. Uganda shoots and ensures that the victims die and the motive for shooting is always defended by those who speak for the perpetrator(s).

To my colleague Uganda medics, some principles of medicine have risen from war situations. The current environment in Uganda requires that we the medics are above the warring factions. When can we get the Henry Dunant, the Clara Barton, and the Florence Nightingale?

Red Cross was founded in 1859, by a Swiss businessman Henry Dunant who was traveling in northern Italy when he witnessed the aftermath of a bloody battle between Franco-Sardinian and Austrian forces near the small village of Solferino.

The fighting had left some 40,000 troops dead. Hundreds were wounded, and missing, and both the armies, as well as the residents of the region, were ill-equipped to deal with the situation.

By 1862, Dunant published a book, A Memory of Solferino. In this book, he advocated for the establishment of national relief organizations made up of trained volunteers who could offer assistance to war-wounded soldiers, whichever side of the fighting they were on. The following year, Dunant was part of a Swiss-based committee that put together a plan for national relief associations.

The group, which eventually became known as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), adopted the symbol of a Red Cross on a white background, an inverse of the Swiss flag, to identify medical workers on the battlefield.

Clara Barton

After the U.S. Civil War broke out in 1861, Clara Barton, a former teacher then, working in the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C., voluntarily began delivering food and supplies to Union soldiers on the front lines.

At the end of the war, Barton, who’d earned the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield,” received permission from President Abraham Lincoln to operate the Missing Soldiers’ Office to help locate missing troops for their families and friends.

Over the course of several years, Barton and her small staff received more than 63,000 letters asking for help and were able to track down some 22,000 men.

In the late 1860s, Barton, a Massachusetts native, travelled to Europe to recuperate from years of tireless work during the war, and while there she learned about the Red Cross movement.

Upon her return to the U.S., she launched a years-long campaign to get the U.S. to ratify the Geneva Convention of 1864; it did so in 1882, a year after Barton founded the American Red Cross.

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale, OM, RRC, DStJ (12 May 1820—13 August 1910) was an English social reformer, statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. Nightingale came to prominence while serving as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War, in which she organized care for wounded soldiers.

She gave nursing a favourable reputation and became an icon of Victorian culture, especially in the persona of “The Lady with the Lamp” making rounds of wounded soldiers at night.

Florence Nightingale was a trailblazing figure in nursing who greatly affected 19th and 20th Century policies around proper medical care.

To the public health department of Uganda, I am very sure if one wanted figures on the number of people injured from police brutality, these figures may not be part of your statistics. Which department of medicine in Uganda can accurately inform the world how many Ugandans have lost lives because of getting involved in politics and death arising from the military actions on civilians?

We have seen the police running vehicles over people in what can be referred to as “intentional direct road traffic accidents”. We have seen the military lob direct tear gas canisters on populations and shoot live bullets.

Do we have gunshot wounds informing our medical practice? And do we have these taken care of in medical budgets? The chances one gets shot in Uganda are higher than one getting bitten by a mosquito.

Here is my practical guidance to my colleagues who practice clinical medicine and community health.

If Ssegirinya Muhammed can offer an ambulance and triage system as an individual, I am confident we can do better than Ssegirinya with our numbers and training.

All activities, especially those of Honorable Kyagulanyi, are risk-laden; we could have them on our plan. A planned and dispatched medical teams accordingly to help in rescue operations.

We are very certain each time Kyagulanyi is out there; he is a victim of gun violence that goes and attended to. Our medical alertness and response are non-partisan; we should wear uniforms to do our duty, like journalists covering these highly combative environments.

America runs what is called EMS (Emergency Medical Services). This is something that we can develop for our circumstances. Ssegirinya is not trained for this. I have seen the victim fainting, bleeding in his hands as he runs the victim to a hospital.

James William Mugeni is currently based in the U.S
Author: James William Mugeni

We like it or not, Ssegirinya Muhammad is our modern-day hero. I have personally sent him help through his rescue operations. You might write him off as a clown, you might write him off as a comedian, but Ssegirinya Muhammad has done rescue operations worth national and international attention.

We could think of a Ssegirinya Muhammad rescue operation and crown him with ambulances for emergency response.

The author is a Medical Clinical Officer/Certified Public Manager

Email: wmungadi@gmail.com  Phone: +1 515-346-5317.

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