Stop biting your nails

By Eronie Kamukama

Nail Biting though not very harmful is a very unhygienic habit once done over time.

Woman bites nails

Woman bites nails

Individuals normally develop for different reasons and sometimes this action is done unconsciously. Some people do it when stressed, when nervous or because someone else is doing it.

This habit can be stopped by helping the victim to realize why they need to stop biting their nails. Nail biting exposes them to germs that could pass on bacteria into their bodies.

It also damages the skin around the nail and increases risks of infections.

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Importance of a balanced diet

By Eronie Kamukama

Some of us ignore the importance of eating a balanced diet. This is something we were taught right from primary school.

According to my science teacher then, eating a balanced diet means eating food nutrients in their equal amounts.

According to National Health Service, an online website, it means eating a range of foods or the right amount of food for how active you are. This is something most of us have forgotten and this is simply a reminder as to why we should take this





Awareness campaigns needed to reduce cervical cancer cases

By Eronie Kamukama

When some people hear the words cervical cancer, all that they understand is that it is that cancer that attacks the cervix, a tissue at the opening of the uterus.cervical-cancer

Some people do not have any idea of what it is yet according to doctors, it is the number one killing disease among people who suffer from cancer in Uganda.

In developing countries, it is the second most common cancer among women. Among ordinary citizens, little or nothing is known about the disease yet it continues to claim so many female lives.

What is Cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is the abnormal growth of cells on the cervix, also known as the mouth of the uterus. This means that it only occurs among women.th7C6TE62B

According to Dr. Lawrence Kazibwe, a gynaecologist at Abii Clinic in Wandegeya, cervical cancer is majorly caused by HPV, a virus known as Human Papilloma Virus.

He says this virus lives under the foreskin of a man’s penis and is acquired through sexual intercourse with an HPV carrier.

Who is prone to cervical cancer?

Kazibwe explains that people who have multiple sexual partners are very prone to acquiring the disease. There are other risk factors that play a great role.

  • Sexual intercourse with a woman who has the cancer, he is likely to acquire the virus which he might pass on to another woman
  • HIV positive women due to low immunity
  • A man whose wife has died from cervical cancer
  • Having unprotected sex or poor condom use

According to Dr. Pascal Kalanguka at Rita Health Care Services, early sex especially among people under the age of 21 years, exposes someone to a 1.5% risk of acquiring the cancer.

Prevalence rate for Cervical Cancer in Uganda

According to the Strategic Plan for Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control in Uganda in 2010, the incidence rate for cervical cancer in Uganda is 45.6 per 100, 000 women. It accounts for 40 percent of all cancers recorded in the Kampala Cancer Registry.

Signs and Symptoms

Kazibwe explains that cervical cancer develops at different rates depending on the person who has acquired the virus. For some women, it takes approximately 5 to 15 years for the cancer to show symptoms.

For women who are HIV positive, it takes about five years for the symptoms of the cancer to show because their immunity to fight the disease is low, hence quick development.

Kazibwe says the symptoms vary according to the stages of the cancer.

During the early stages, it is likely that the patient will not experience any symptoms. However, in the late stages of cervical cancer, the woman’s vaginal discharge becomes watery, smelly and its color ranges from dirty yellow to blood stained discharge

The signs continue to show if not medical treatment is availed.

  • Contact bleeding when the cervix is touched during bathing or even during sex
  • Dull back pain
  • Passing urine that has blood
  • Difficult when passing stool


The Ugandan government is currently promoting vaccination to prevent the disease. Kalanguka urges the use of vaccination saying that all girls between 11 and 12 years can benefit from Gardasil and Cerviscil vaccines. He cautions parents to have their children vaccinated because it reduces their chances of getting the virus.

GardasilDM2401-468x192Like most diseases, cervical cancer is treatable and can be cured. The most important first step is finding out whether a woman has the cancer and this is done through screening.

Kazibwe says women should go for pre-cancer screening because if the disease is detected early, it is easier to treat and cure completely.

Women who are over 20 years old and are sexually active are cautioned to go for the screening.

He notes that HIV positive women should do checkups at least once a year and those who are HIV negative should test every after three years.


Kalanguka explains that once the disease is detected, the doctor can freeze the abnormal cells until they peel off and fall off the cervix.

In some instances, the doctor can carry out surgery to permanently remove the uterus and cervix where the cancerous cells are growing. This only applies to situations when the cancer is in its early stages.

thYH1OAGAKKalanguka explains that once the cancer is in its advanced stages and the doctor has established that it has already spread to other tissues of the body, he can only offer palliative radiotherapy and use morphine which help to reduce the patient’s pain.


Challenges in the fight against cervical cancer

Kalanguka observes that many women in Uganda are ignorant about cervical cancer and there are very few health workers in Uganda who encourage women to go for cancer screening.

He says, “a study carried out shows that most workers in the maternal wards do not encourage women to go for checkups which is why we had more people dying from cervical cancer than from road accidents,” Kalanguka says.

He adds that the lack of PAP smears in hospitals and histologists who analyze tissue and tell whether it has cancerous cells are all reasons as to why the disease continues to silently kill women.

Kazibwe says the vaccines for cervical cancer too expensive for many people to afford. The vaccines cost between 200,000 shillings and 400,000 shillings.


However, Kalanguka says despite these hindrances, the Ugandan government should aim at educating women on cancer prevention.

He says the most important step in the fight against cervical cancer related deaths is to prevent its spread and reduce the risk factors. “Emphasis should be put on raising awareness and educating the masses on  the risk factors to reduce exposure to the virus.

Women should strive to stay HIV free and young girls should delay sex,” Kalanguka says.

How safe is that food sold near you hostel?

By Eronie Kamukama

It is 1:00 pm and most roads in Kikoni lead to restaurants and kiosks because it is time to have lunch. The road between Kare, Akwata Empora, Dreamworld and Naliika hostels in Makerere Kikoni is crowded as students get in and out of their hostels to get something to eat.

Food selling points along Kikoni roads

Food selling points along Kikoni roads. Photo by Eronie Kamukama

In front of Kare hostel are three kiosks, one selling rolex (chapatti and fried eggs), the other two selling chips and deep fried fish.

Just beside Naliika hostel, is a restaurant that has no sign post showing its name but most people make their way to this restaurant every lunch time. For them to access it, the students have to jump over a sewage trench that runs in front of the restaurant. They seem not to be bothered by the trench and the safety of the food given.

There is a wide variety of food; from matooke, cassava, fried and boiled rice, chips to different kinds of stew. This food is prepared in different ways. The matooke is prepared in a sack.

The posho is prepared in a saucepan after which it is stored in a polythene bag, while the rice is covered by a polythene bag to protect it from contamination.

Despite this, it is one of the most crowded restaurants in Kikoni during the day because the students keep queuing up to make orders.

The cheapest meals are; plain chips, matooke, posho and rice with bean stew which cost UGX2, 000. The cooks keep packing their clients’ food in white polythene bags which they take back to their hostels and transfer the food to a plate.

Why students buy this food

Mildred Asiimwe, one of the students who buys food from this restaurant, says the restaurant is near her hostel and provides nice local food at a cheaper price compared to other restaurants. She adds that she has to buy this food at lunch time and then buy chips for her supper because that is what she can afford.

However, for some students, their choice of restaurant has nothing to do with money.

Student waits for his order for a rolex (chapatti and eggs). Photo by Eronie Kamukama

Student waits for his order for a Rolex (chapatti and eggs). Photo by Eronie Kamukama


Anthony Ssenyonga says, “The food is readily available for some of us who do not cook so I do not see the reason as to why I should not buy it.”

Student buys his Rolex. Photo by Eronie Kamukama

Student buys his Rolex. Photo by Eronie Kamukama

However, not all students eat local food or food from restaurants and so the rest prefer to buy fast foods like chips, chaps, sausages from kiosks along this dusty road in Kikoni.

Maria Nankya, a third year student says she only buys junk food from the kiosks because she has no time to cook.

“I buy junk food every day because sometimes I do not have time to cook or when I have time, I feel too lazy to cook. It is an easier way of eating what I want,” Nankya says.

The students are aware that the place where this food is prepared is dirty but they go ahead to eat the food.

Nankya says, “I think about the safety of this food and I know that the place is dirty but I always console myself since everyone else eats it and no one has died. I do not have any options. Am usually told that i could get diseases or infections, but I know I can always buy medicine and become fine.”

Health implications

In a bid to reduce expenses spent on food and save money for another meal, some students have developed health complications.

Rose Mugobya, a student says there was a night she bought sausages and got diarrhea which kept her awake till morning when she bought medicine.

Harriet Nakimera, another student, says, “I bought a mixture of chips and beef stew but after eating I went to the hospital because I was vomiting and I had diarrhea.”

What experts say

According to Charles Ssemugabo, a teaching assistant at the Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health – School of Public Health, it is not surprising that the students develop health problems after eating this food. He notes that the main concern is about the people who handle this food.

It is recommended that these people who handle the food be examined for communicable diseases like cholera, diarrhea and skin diseases but most of them do not undergo any medical examination. There are chances that they can transmit diseases to their clients

Charles Ssemugabo

He adds that the food handlers sometimes have no head gears, and have long nails, rings and bracelets that harbor contaminants and this is more common among those who are not monitored.

Ssemugabo also explains that it is advisable to prepare food from a clean place or using clean utensils, however, this is not the case with these kiosks. He observes that these people use these work tops daily without disinfecting them yet they harbor dust, germs which compromises food safety.

Trasias Mukama, another teaching assistant at School of Public Health at Mulago Hospital says the food in some kiosks is not well cooked.

“Some people do not cook food to the required temperature. There are bacteria that survive in high temperature and if the food is not cooked to that temperature, the bacteria will survive and cause infections once the food is eaten,” Mukama says.

He emphasizes that some restaurant and kiosk owners keep the leftover food to sell it later which exposes it to contamination. If the food is not well warmed to a certain temperature, it might be unsafe to eat.

Mukama urges students to be concerned about having their food packed in polythene bags. He says once these bags are exposed to dirt, they can cause diseases like diarrhea. Storing food in a relatively safe place to avoid cross-contamination is recommended.