ENJOY YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE FREELY

VOTE FOR YOUR OWN GOOD AND THE GOOD OF OTHERS.

Gifford Pinchot said: “It is a greater thing to be a good citizen than to be a good republican or a good democrat.”

  From the worldometers.info website, Uganda has a population of 46.486 532 million people and 50.8% of these are women.78% of the population are under the age of 30, making us the country with the youngest population in the world.

I first voted in 1980 when I was almost thirty years old. By then our population was 12.548 million with a median age of 16.4, 126 parliamentary seats were contested , there were 4.898, 117 registered voters of the and there was an 85.2% turn out.

Forty years later, the population has grown to 46.486 532 with a median age of 16.7

 A hotly contested general election is due next Thursday, 14th January 2021.The Electoral Commission website shows that there are 17. 658 527 million registered voters of whom 77 % are under the age of 25. This is the group that will determine our country’s future in a free and fair election.

There are 353 constituencies seats and one women representative seat from each of the the 146 districts of Uganda.

The pre-independence elections were held early 1962, followed by Independence on the 9th October 1962. Then from May 1966, the country was embroiled in years of civil strife until April 1979 when soldiers of the Tanzanian Defence Forces assisted some Ugandan exiles to overthrow Idi Amin Dada’s military dictatorship.

The ruling military commission organized the December 1980 general elections that saw Milton Obote return to power for the second time. The elections were rigged and led to the protracted bush war in the Luwero triangle in central Buganda for five years. It ended on January 26th January 1986 when the then rebel leader , Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was sworn in as the 8th President of Uganda.

I have been in economic exile for almost 25 years so forty years after I cast my first vote, I shall be voting for the second time.

For those under 30, you could be taking the right to vote freely for granted and yet some men and women fought for this right. For the women in particular, you owe your vote to the progressive Women’s rights pioneers- they campaigned, lobbied the governments of the day, held demonstrations and protests to win the Women’s suffrage- the right of women to vote in elections. This opened up the women’s entry in the public arena.

After centuries of socialization that the women‘s role in society was motherhood and home- making while the men provided and protected them, it was a long and serious struggle. Almost all our traditional African societies believed that a woman had to first be protected and cared for by her father who then passed her on to a husband and if the husband died, her eldest son would take on the responsibility for her. By all intents and purposes, the woman was considered a minor.

It is therefore not surprising that even in Greece, the foundation of Western Civilisation democracy, the women had no voice in the democracy or governance of their country.

These women rights pioneers were fighting for the equality of the sexes in law and reality-to get half the country’s sidelined population into the democratic functioning of society. Their biggest obstacle was that feasible social changes were to be passed by men in an all-men parliament.

They struggled doggedly and recruited men on their side by proving to them that improving the position of women in society would also raise the quality of life for the average family and the nation as a whole. They believed that the problems of women were not theirs alone but they were problems for the societies they lived in.

The best example is Switzerland, it was the last country in Europe to give women the right to vote in 1984 after three referendums of 1968, 1971 and 1973!

The following list gives you an idea of the protracted struggle.

New Zealand –  full suffrage in 1893

Denmark – 1915

Russia – 1917

Britain- 1918

USA – 1919

Netherlands- 1919

Italy- 1925

South Africa- white women only – 1930

Philippines – 1937: the first in Asia.

Greece- 1930 but in reality in 1944.

Israel – since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.Little wonder then it had its first woman Prime Minister, Golda Meir in 1969.

India – full suffrage 1947

Ethiopia – 1955

Tanganyika – 1958

Nigeria – 1959

Rwanda- 1961

Kenya- 1963

Zimbambwe – 1978

South Africa- full suffrage in 1994.

Saudi Arabia – December 2015.  In 1957,women were banned from driving cars  and the right was restored after intensive campaigns and lobbying in September 2017!

Uganda as a British territory had its first woman member of the Legislative Council, Mrs. Florence Alice Lubega as early as 1957 and between 1958 and 1960 she was followed by a number of educated women like Pumla Kisosonkole, Joyce Mpanga, Sarah Ntiro, Frances Akello and Eseza Makumbi. At the time of Independence Florence Lubega, Sugra Visram Namubiru and Barbara Saben were members of Parliament.

As more women were empowered by good education – to university level, the number of female members of parliament increased.

The numbers surged after the United Nations End of the Women Decade Conference held in July 1985 in Nairobi, Kenya. The then Uganda government of Milton Obote- 2 sent a big delegation of Non Government Organisation and government officials for the three weeks conference. By the time they returned to Uganda the government had been overthrown but the members of the NGO forum went on to found ACFODE- Action for Development and the medical doctors among them founded the Women Doctors Association. They also fanned the activities of FIDA- UGANDA, the Uganda chapter of the International Women lawyers which had been founded in 1974 and other local organizations promoting women’s rights.

Later, in January 1986, when the new government headed by Yoweri  Kaguta Museveni was sworn in , these energetic members lobbied his government for a Ministry of Women in Development to be headed by a woman, mainly to develop social mechanisms to promote Equality and put it into practice. Over time it has grown and evolved into the Ministry of Gender Labour and social Development.

Creating the position of a Parliamentary representative of women from each district of Uganda was one of these social mechanisms and still stands today. Empowering women through education combined with these social mechanisms have changed the social position of women in Uganda forever. We never forget that the struggle for a better quality of life can only be fought by men and women together.

“In the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it.”– Barack Obama

 I was happy to see one female, forty years old Nancy Alice Kalembe , a mother of two, among the eleven Presidential candidates . She may be invisible among that crowd of men but she is a beacon of hope for the young generation of women and validates the efforts of those women who have waged the ceaseless battle to get the woman in the political arena.

“ No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy.  Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts off from its youth severes its lifeline.”– Citizenship quote

Knowing and understanding clearly where the women are coming from, I will go out with enthusiasm and optimism to vote on Thursday 14th January 2021 and later be part of the selection of Local Authority officials. I am busy encouraging others to do the same. Politics determines our every day needs- healthcare, transport, quality of education and our livelihood, I cannot take democracy for granted, I have to play my role as a responsible citizen.

Gellhorn said: “Citizen is a tough occupation which obliges the citizen to make his own informed opinion and stand by it.

The wisest among us learn from others: the highly contested US election of 2000 between George Bush Jr. and Al Gore taught the Americans and all members of the Global Village that every vote counts.

It is extremely unfortunate that the general election will be taking place during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic- the new cases are surging and the deaths are increasing and yet we have to vote.

The best option is to strictly adhere to the Ministry of health safety guidelines and ensure that you are not in harm’s way as you fulfill one of your fundamental rights of citizenship.

Whom I vote for is my own business but I would want to vote for a leader with vision, integrity, accountability,humility to serve others, focused and inclusive and a strategic planner. He has to be someone who will inspire us to do things we never thought we could do.

“ Anyone who refuses to make a choice has already made a wrong choice by allowing his life for chance to rule.”- Myles Munroe

“ There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship.” – Nader

QUESTION: Are you ready to be a good and responsible citizen by exercising your right to vote freely on the 14th January 2021?

SOME QUOTES AND PROVERBS TO ENCOURAGE AND INSPIRE US AS WE ENTER 2021

Three days to go to the end of the toughest and an unprecedented year in our lives!

Normally, a new year is celebrated with enthusiasm, hope and optimism. It give us the opportunity to reflect, look back, take stock, asses how we fared and resolve to do better. 2021 comes at a time when we are going through the second wave of the spread of the COVID-19 disease in our communities worldwide.

From what we know about such pandemics, the second wave tends to cause more deaths the first one.

 Of the 50 million people estimated to have died during the 1918-1919 Spanish Flue pandemic the majority died during the period of the second wave. As I write this, Britain and South Africa and Nigeria have reported a new strain of the virus which tends to spread faster than the original one. By the 29th December , UK  had reported 53,135 new coronavirus cases in one day!

 The health care workers and the health care system is overwhelmed by the number of patients.

From the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, the total cases reported from 191 countries were 82,051,958 and total deaths of 1,792,251

As by 29th December, Uganda had reported 34,281 confirmed cases and 250 deaths.

Yesterday, two senior consultant doctors died of COVID-19 disease and many are reported to battling it in hospitals. In the last three weeks, I have lost relatives and friends to the disease and I know many who are down with it. One young medical doctor lost a mother, a paternal aunt and a father to COVID-19 in the space of two weeks! These happen to be the few known to me or who make it to the Media. Thankfully, a number of health workers and individuals who have recovered from the disease have come out to share their experiences- to alert us that COVID-19 is real and is a physiological and psychological torment.

 Our weak health care system is already weighed down by the big number of patients and it is no longer possible to trace contacts. Due to the cost of COVID-19 diagnostic tests, my country cannot afford Mass testing. A relative who had symptoms similar to those of COVID-19 disease, had to pay an equivalent of almost 100 USD to have the test done at a private hospital. She is among the privileged few who can afford it. She could not hide her relief and triumph when the test turned out to be negative.

As if that is not enough, a general election is due in 16 days time and what are labelled as “scientific” campaigns are in full swing.  The election-related violence going in our midst alongside the second wave of the pandemic can only be compared to the lethal mix of the hot volcanic ash from a volcanic

 eruption and the heavy rains that usually follow it and cause floods and landslides!

All in all, the major priority for each individual is to stay alive by staying home.

This will not go well for the 70% of our people in the informal sector who depend on a daily income – trading and providing services like welding, car repair.

It is a precarious  balance of lives against livelihood but then one has to be first healthy to go out and work to support himself and her/his family.

The Baganda have a proverb that says: Bwekataligyirya eribika amaggi.

Loosely translated it means that:  If the black-winged kite                                                             

does not prey on the  chick, the chick will grow into a hen and lay eggs.

Desperate times like these, demand that each one stops and recognises the significance of the moment.

Anything else can wait. I have decided to put myself into strict lockdown for the next three weeks and I am busy recruiting many others to this approach.

As  Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director –General of World Health Organisation,

Twitted from his UN Geneva office last November : “ We’re asking everyone to treat  the decisions about where they go, what they do, who they meet, as life-and –death decisions – because they are.’’

These days I find myself sleeping curled up in bed and it just reminded me of the patients I used to see in the mental hospital. Feeling overwhelmed and powerless, they would lie in the foetal position in bed- just like a growing baby lies all curled up in its mother’s womb. This position minimizes injury to the neck and chest of the baby. The uncertainty and the whirlwind change caused by the COVID-19 disease in all areas of my life, is forcing me to assume this position during sleep and I guess that I am not the only one doing this. It is a natural response to a hostile environment.

We are all in this together and have to work together to go right through it. I have collected some quotes and proverbs to encourage you, support you and inspire you as we enter a new year.

 By the look of things, it is going to be a long wait for things to return to a new normal.

  1. In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful remember, I have learned to pay attention to the present.”- Julia Cameron
  2. Sadness flies away on the wings of time.” Jena de la Fontaine.
  3. Tough times never last, but tough people do.”- Robert.H. Schuller
  4. You are unique and amazing having been shaped by what life has thrown at you.”- Jane Nannono
  5. “In all things it is better to hope than to despair.”- Johann Wolfgang Goethe
  6. Hope is the last thing ever lost. – Italian Proverb
  7. Hope is the anchor of the soul, the stimulus to action and the incentive to achievement.”– Author Unknown
  8. He who loses hope may part with anything.”- William Congrene
  9. When there is no hope, there can be no endeavour.”- Samuel Johasen
  10. To live without hope is to cease to live.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  11. “Hope never abandons you; you abandon it.”- Gieng Weinberg
  12. When our hopes break, let our patience hold.” – Thomas Fuller
  13. Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.- George Iles

Some African Proverbs:

Hope does not disappear.

Rain does not fall on one roof alone.

When I think of other’s misfortune, I forget mine.

Lack of knowledge is darker than the night.

One must talk little and listen much.

Every misfortune has a hidden gem inside it.

If it were not for hope, the heart would break. – Greek Proverb

While there is life, there is hope. – Traditional Proverb

Only death itself can end our hope. – Arabian Proverb

Hope is the physician of each misery. – Irish Proverb

As long as you are alive, life never stops. You have to surrender your life to a higher power and learn to  dance comfortably with death every day as you go about your day-to-day activities. It is born out of a place of inner harmony.

Struggles and challenges in life make life interesting and worthwhile and help us to build the resilience and wisdom we need to handle similar challenges and bigger challenges in future. It is never lost on me that life will continue beyond me. Beyond all of us.

QUESTION:

Have the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and restrictions in movement and association left you feeling lonely and abandoned?

What efforts have you made to adapt to the forced changes and to stay fully engaged with life, with your loved ones and members of your community?

May 2021 be a year of Restoration to you all.

A YEAR LIKE NO OTHER

YEAR 2020

Seven days to go to the celebration of Christmas to be followed a week later by the New year,2021.

The Christmas carols being played on the radio and in the streets have never sounded so distant!

This has never happened to me before even during the most difficult Christmas of 1985 when Kampala was swarmed with army men while the Peace talks –later referred to as “peace jokes” were going on in Nairobi , Kenya. They were between the Ugandan government of the day headed by Tito Okello and the National Resistance Army (NRA), a rebel group led by Yoweri Museveni.

My husband and our two young children made arrangements for celebrating Christmas at home joined by my young sister, Gladys who arrived from London on Christmas eve.

 Feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, disbelief and confusion have weighed on all of us since 11 th March 2020 when the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 Respiratory disease a global pandemic. This new virus has since proved to be the biggest threat to our lives and has changed all the rules about everything- how we do things, how we move, how we socialize.

It is more scary now that like most countries in the world, Uganda is experiencing the second wave of the spread of the virus in its communities. The disease that sounded so far away in Wuhan , China , in December 2019, is right here in our midst.

In the last two weeks, I have lost some relatives, friends, colleagues and the numbers continue to increase. Many others are fighting it in self- isolation at home . Kampala and its suburbs are the epicenter of the disease. Under such a situation the best thing to do is to stay at home while practicing the standard health guidelines to the letter and taking efforts to boost your body’s immunity.

 No wonder the Christmas carols sound that distant!

But then life never stops so we just have to find a way of moving forward with the new virus in our midst. Probably the launching of the mass vaccine campaigns in some countries like  Britain, USA, Canada and Russia may give us some sense of renewed hope but then I happen to live in one of the least developed countries of the world and may have to wait patiently for some months to receive the vaccine doses.

From March 21 st to date, our movements have been restricted in our attempt to slow down the spread of the disease in our communities. Failing to do this, our health care workers will be overstretched and our weak health care institutions will be overwhelmed. As the disease progresses in all countries of the world, a healthy crisis has turned into an economic one. No country was prepared for these crises.

Life is essentially about learning and each experience I encounter has a lesson in it which I have to pick and learn from it , grow and become a better human being.

Most psychologists agree on the five basic approaches to handling a crisis in one’s life.

  1. Live One day at a Time- when you feel uncertain about your future, the best way to remain functional and keep going forward is to take one step focusing on the next one.
  2. Reduce the stress to make you feel in control- You do this by dealing with what is most important in your life at that moment in time. Our major priority now is to stay safe and healthy.
  3. Communicate your needs to loved ones and friends- talk, share and be open about your concerns.
  4. Reach out and Ask for Help- no one has ever handled a crisis successfully alone. Two heads are better than one. You can get help from family and friends but if you feel overwhelmed, do not hesitate to ask for professional help.
  5. Get Proper sleep- the future looks uncertain, you have suffered losses- loss of loved ones or even lost a job. You need to rest a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep regularly at night to restore your physical, mental and emotional well- being. It is the only way you can  make decisions, to take good care of yourself and loved ones and to adapt to new changes- becoming more creative and innovative.

One of my favourite quotes says: “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; but the species that survives is the one that that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” – Charles Darwin.

In life, no experience is ever wasted. The COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions on my life has had unintended good consequence on me.

Having too much time to myself has allowed me to reflect on my whole life and forced me to make some adjustments. I have had to develop:

An attitude of Gratitude- I have stopped takings things for granted. I recognise that the most important gift to me is waking up strong and mobile.

 Real Connectedness – Despite the changes and losses, I am grateful that I am in constant communication with my children, my sibling and friends and I am having some quality time with my mother. I am grateful that I have been able to maintain and gain new friendships in the pandemic.

I have regularly been sharing what I know including scientifically proven information about COVID-19 disease to help people understand the disease and persuade them to become part of the SOLUTION other than the confusion.

Creating an adventure in my home- The kid inside me has been woken up- to be spontaneously  creative and innovative.

Combining the innocence and spontaneity of childhood with the maturity, skill and wisdom of my age, I have been able to write several short stories that have been published Online platforms like: Stories to Connect us on commonwealthwriters.org, Yours 2Read based in London and Kalahari Review Literary Magazine.

In October, I attended the Femrite’s  week of Literary activities on Zoom and several medical virtual meetings. I have also participated in Bloggers challenges in Uganda and USA. It has kept me fully alive, useful and relevant in this COVID crisis. I have learned the technique of living and working with style and grace, making me contribute to the greater good in an effective way.

I have also been able to polish up two manuscripts that I wrote some years back.

My passion for gardening and reading has been at its best. Doing what I love and enjoy keeps me fully engaged with life.

Taking good care of myself and others- the majority of adults have to fulfill this responsibility. I have to be strong physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to take care of others in a weaker state.

 As 2020 draws to its end, I am grateful that I still have the great desire to stay engaged in life- to stay active and grow mentally and spiritually. I have the opportunity to plan for 2021 and set out a few clear and inspiring goals to light my way. I have to create possibilities for 2021 and beyond.

After a tough 2020, which left the majority of us tired, feeling wrung out, stressed and unsure about what the future might bring, the greatest virtue that I now need is hope in capital letters.

The online Oxford dictionary defines hope as: a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.

I need a deep well of hope to expect something good with confidence in 2021 and beyond.

As a devout Christian, I trust God the Father and the Restorer , will in his own way gradually restore all of us.

Why I feel that I badly need hope:

  • Without hope, I cannot think of a future beyond where I am.
  • Hope is critical if I am to reclaim my enthusiasm for life- armed with hope, I can anticipate the outcome with excitement. It stirs me up to open my mind and heart for new possibilities. Once again I will trust myself and others to learn from them.
  • If I keep losing hope in the future, I shall sink in despair and a final state of powerlessness and become dysfunctional.
  • With hope I can lift my eyes to the horizon and truly believe that nothing lasts forever. Change always occurs. Some patience, discipline and responsibility to myself will keep me functioning.
  • I can easily accept 2020 as an incredibly challenging year and understand that it is only one year in my long life- not to allow it to define me. Once I understand this with absolute clarity, then I can find the wings to fly high in 2021 and beyond.

Alexandre Dumas said:  “All human wisdom is summed up in two words; wait and hope.”

The most uplifting words that I have heard during this pandemic so far were from the close to 91 years of age Margaret Keenan of UK who was the first person in the world to receive the approved Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on the 8th December 2020.

“It’s the best birthday present I could wish for because it means that I can fully look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the new year after being on my own for most of the year.”

Herein lies our hope for the future; protecting the people against the disease, reopening economies and gradually returning to a New Normal.

My best present for this year will be making it to the end of the year and being given the opportunity to display a great generosity of mind and soul in 2021 and beyond.

QUESTION:

 Among your traditional rituals for the festive season, which one will you be missing most  this year? Why?

Thank you all readers and followers for walking with me through this unprecedented year.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and New Year filled with new possibilities.

 Please take the personal choice to stay safe and healthy.

I WILL GLADLY QUEUE UP FOR THE NEW COVID-19 VACCINE

Immunisation is a priority in the control of Vaccine- preventable diseases.

For my fourteen years of formal education, I attended one school and left it to join the only university in my country at that time. By sheer coincidence, Gayaza High School, the oldest  girls boarding school in Uganda, founded by the Church Missionary Society of Britain in 1905, happened to be located within the “defined area” of the Makerere University , Kasangati Public health centre. This centre served as a clinical base where medicals students and post graduates were educated and trained in preventive medicine. At the same time it offered improved quality care to the community. It offered free prompt treatment of diseases, illnesses and injury, rehabilitation, prevention of diseases, improved community’s health and involved the community in the management of its health.

At the beginning of each term and at the end, all students were weighed, their heights recorded, had medical examinations, were dewormed and immunized against the immunisable diseases of that time like tuberculosis, tetanus, polio, measles, small pox, following the international schedules. Low weight students were put on a special diet and followed up.

I for one loathed the injection- prick pain but I had no way out. I was always among the last ones to get it.

When later in the fourth year in medical school, I spent three months training at this centre, I greatly appreciated its role in keeping us healthy during our childhood and I accepted whole heartedly that Immunisation was part of Primary prevention of disease in healthy people.

Fast Forward to 2020: the new coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to dominate all areas of our lives and stands as the greatest threat to global public health of the century. We are now into the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic as it spreads into our communities

 From the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Resource Centre, as of the 9th December 2020,Uganda had reported a total of 25,059 and 219 deaths. Due to our limited resources, Mass testing is not yet available. USA had recorded the highest total : 15,392,196 and 289,450 confirmed deaths!

Like the second wave of the Spanish flue pandemic of 1918-1919 which killed 50 million people in total worldwide, the second wave of COVID-19 disease pandemic is killing more people than the first one.

We have the advantage of advanced science knowledge and technology to add another vital tool to the Public health measures of:

1. Washing your hands with soap and water regularly and properly.

2. Wearing a face mask properly in all public places or around people who do not live in your household.

3. Physical distancing – at least two metres between yourself and other people.

4. Being well informed about the disease.

In our fierce fight against this life threatening enemy which has no specific cure, some remarkable achievements have been made. By the 9th November 2020, collaborative studies and research by scientists and Pharmaceutical companies had born fruits

Currently, about 200 potential vaccines are in various stages of development. Public health specialist have assured us that it requires at least 60% of the world’s population of 7.8 billion people to have to have been vaccinated with a safe and effective vaccine to stem the tide of the pandemic.

The more  safe and effective vaccines developed and approved, the easier the production and distribution globally.

Talking to the people around me, their major concern is the safety of the vaccines since they have been developed rather fast- March 2020 to November 2020. Traditionally development of such a vaccine would tale 5-10 years.

They also want to know how long the protection of the 2-dose vaccine lasts and whether the vaccine directly affects the transmission of the virus from one individual to another. For the last two question to be answered it requires the follow up of those who received it, for a long period.

As for the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, all scientists and researchers wherever they are have a role to play in reassuring the public so that they can accept the vaccine when it becomes available to them.

The day I graduated, all medical graduands had to swear to the Hippocratic oath-one of the oldest binding document traced back to  Hippocrates, the so-called father of Medicine who lived in the 5th century BC.  We swore to uphold the principles enshrined it. They included saving of lives and to share the scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk and the knowledge that I would acquire acquire in the practice of Medicine.

I have always honoured these principles but as of now, I feel I have to do it with a lot of vigour and responsibility. I have read a lot about the COVID-19 respiratory disease and continue to do so to get a better understanding of the disease and help people to gain a solid understanding of the underlying science and how the disease affects our daily lives.

In this Digital era of free available information that can be shared instantly,  one has to be helped on how to filter it and get the right message – to make the right informed medical decisions and apply them to improve the quality of one’s life. Our beliefs and values play an important role in the decisions we make every day and we tend to pick what affirms our beliefs.

But having the right science knowledge about current health matters like COVID-19 respiratory disease, helps us to recognise our role in the prevention and control of the pandemic and to engage deeply in the ongoing conversations in our communities and nationally.

As of now, the COVID-19 pandemic is the most important science –based issue of our day and as a health worker I have to acquaint myself with the available knowledge about the pandemic and help the ordinary people understand it. We all know that when we get the necessary knowledge we understand the problem or issue at hand and willingly become part of the solution other than create more uncertainty.

Simplified scientific knowledge given to the public enables them to have a legitimate voice in the conversation about the matter. In the midst of fake news and the spread of misinformation, we have to remember that science is reproducible , evidence-based information that is factual not opinion intended to help the public know and understand scientific concepts and processes.

Drugs and vaccines have benefits and risks to the user but doctors generally use them when the benefits outweigh the risks .

I have summarized a few facts for you to help you understand why you and I need the COVID-19 vaccine.

  1. The COVID-19 vaccine has been developed rather fast: March 2020 to November 2020.

    Yes, this is true  and is record time in the history of the development of vaccines. It has been made possible by the available advanced science and technology.

In 2003, there was an epidemic of  Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-SARS. It was caused by a coronavirus SARS-CoV but researchers , doctors, funders and pharmaceutical companies got to work to develop a vaccine against this virus.

The current COVID-19 virus is a new strain of the family of the Coronaviruses to which SARS belongs. Since they are related, the previous work done in the development of the 2003 SARS-CoV vaccine facilitated the work on COVID-19 coronavirus potential vaccine. They did not have to start from scratch once they had identified COVID-19 as a new strain of an already existing family of viruses.

2 .The results of the studies have had to be scrutinised by the experts in Vaccine development to ensure that the highest standards of research were followed. They assessed the quality, validity and originality of the research work carried out. They have to determine the contribution of the research studies to the advancement in the field of vaccine development. Errors and mistakes must have been pointed out to the researchers for redress.

3. Developing a safe, effective vaccine against COVID-19 coronavirus has been the most pressing challenge of our time but the researchers , doctors and pharmaceutical companies have reassured us that they have not cut corners or made short cuts.

4. None of these new vaccines use real viral material therefore they are not likely to cause any significant side effects. All those involved are aware of what any compromise on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine can cause to the population and the backlash on their companies or universities. Trust takes years to develop but can be lost in the blink of an eye.

5. As the vaccines are being launched and rolled out, all those receiving them are being followed up for any development of side effects like allergic reactions. Mass testing continues as well as the monitoring of the use of vaccines for at least a year.

6. At the onset , none of us had any immunity to this new virus- enabling it to spread rapidly in all our communities. For the pandemic to be controlled, 70 to 90 % of any given population in any country has to develop Herd Immunity– through having suffered from the infectious disease or having developed the immunity by being vaccinated against COVID-19 disease. To allow the biggest number of the population to suffer from the disease will overwhelm the health workers and the health care systems and cause many deaths especially in the high-risk part of the population.

The best way for the biggest part of the population to acquire immunity to the infection is to simultaneously reduce the spread of the infection in the population by using the Public health measures drawn up by the Ministry of health while rolling out wide vaccination of the frontline health workers and the population at the highest risk of developing the severe form of the infection. This was the same approach used to control Vaccine- preventable Childhood diseases  like Tuberculosis, tetanus , the highly contagious measles, rubella, chickenpox and polio in our populations. The quick development of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine and its wide use globally, will make this possible.

7. We in the developing world, have a big concern about the distribution and actual access to this new vaccine. Traditionally, those who could pay got the vaccines first. However, it is comforting to know that organizations like COVAX are covering our backs. COVAX aims at ensuring fair equitable access to an effective vaccine for all countries- a global collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatment and vaccines. World health Organisation is part of this group.

8. Pandemics- in the past a pandemic like the Spanish flue were a once- in- a century event but in this 21st century, pandemics are becoming more frequent and more challenging to manage.

Viruses like HIV, Ebola, SARS-CoV and COVID-19 live in wild animals like monkeys and bats as their natural hosts but as huge forests are being cleared for timber, farming and new settlements, the animals’ natural habitat is being reduced. Wild animals have been forced to move and live close to human beings. This makes it easy for the viruses to move from these animals and jump into human beings thus causing diseases like Ebola, SARS and Covid-19.

EXCITING NEW DEVELOPMENTS.

  On the 5th December 2020, Russia launched its  COVID-19 vaccine programme in Moscow, the epicenter of the pandemic in Russia.  Over 5000 people in the high risk groups were vaccinated in 70 clinics within Moscow. The Russian coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V was registered in August, is claimed to be 95% effective.

Russia had reported  2,541,199  confirmed cases and 44,718 deaths by 9th December 2020.

  The video clip of 90 years-old Margaret Keenan receiving the first injection of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine on the 8th December 6:31 am at Coventery as the  National Health System launched its mass vaccination programme, the largest in the NHS’ 73 –year history gave us renewed hope. The programme is being rolled out at 70 hospitals around UK.

UK has so far reported 1,771,552 confirmed cases and 62,663 deaths.

Uganda has applied to have the approved COVID-19 vaccine available in the country by January 2021 mainly for the Frontline health workers and highest –at –risk part of the population

I will be among the first ones in the queue and will mobilize many to join as a way of thanking all those researchers, doctors, funders and pharmaceutical companies that have worked together to get us this far in such a short time. Gradually, we can end the pandemic and then rebuild our lives and economies.

As a health worker in a developing country who has been involved in the struggles to control Tuberculosis, Neonatal Tetanus, Measles and polio, I consider this a remarkable achievement.

 However, I am still waiting for a safe and effective vaccine for Malaria which remains the number one killer disease in children under five in my country.

QUESTION:

Has this post helped you to understand why we need the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Will you willingly take it if you happen to be among the high-risk group of the population?

.

RAINBOWS OF HOPE

Photo by Jared Erondu :Unsplash.com

COVID-19 acute respiratory disease has been with us since December 2019 and has caused many deaths and morbidity all over the world. It started off as a health crisis that turned into an economic crisis as well as governments tried through Lockdowns to control the spread of the disease and save lives. It has evaded all aspects of our lives: how we do things, how we connect with one another, how we work and travel. We have been forced to create a new Normal as the virus overwhelms us.

As of the 24 th November 2020, according to the Johns Hopkins University Corona Virus Resource Centre , the global confirmed cases were 59,814,726 and the deaths were 1,410,190

USA is the most affected country in the world. It has:

   12,597,330 Confirmed cases  and 259, 962 Deaths.

Followed by India with : 9,222,216 Confirmed cases and 134, 689 Deaths.

 My country, Uganda, has reported : 18,406 Confirmed cases and 186 Deaths.

My second country,Botswana, has reported 9,992 Confirmed cases  and 31 Deaths.

 Since late October, Europe has been going through a second wave of the pandemic that forced countries like Britain, France and Portugal to shut down – a second Lockdown till early December.

Currently, we are focusing on the tried and tested public health procedures to control the spread of the disease.

1. Washing your hands with soap and water regularly and properly

2. Wearing a face mask properly in all public places or around people who do not live in your household.

3. Physical distancing – at least two metres between yourself and other people.

4. Being well informed about the disease.

Returning close to Nomalcy requires us to combine these four with the availability and access to a safe, effective and affordable vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus.

While the virus is raging havoc, researchers, funders and volunteers are getting together to develop a safe and effective and affordable vaccine. It is a race against time that started in March 2020.

Much as a vaccine is required urgently, it has to be developed following the rigorous Scientific testing of its potency, safety and purity because a vaccine is given to healthy people to prevent them from getting sick.

Safety is the priority. This is how it has been since the world’s first vaccine was developed by Edward Jenner, the English physician and scientist, in 1796. He used a relatively mild cowpox virus to immunize people against the deadly smallpox virus. Almost 200 years later, smallpox disease became the first disease to be eradicated from the world solely through vaccination in May 1980!

The standard model/process for developing a safe effective vaccine goes through 5 rigorous stages and requires huge investment from both the public and private sectors.

From the Wellcom.org website the process is made up of these stages:

  1. Discovery research- it is done in the laboratory to find ways of inducing an immune response at a molecular level. This stage normally takes 2-5 years.
  2. The Pre-clinical stage- the product is tested in animals to assess its safety and suitability as a potential vaccine for humans. It takes 2 years.
  3. Clinical development- the potential vaccine has to be tested in humans in three phases.

Phase 1– for any vaccine in development, its safety for use in humans is the priority. The potential vaccine is tested on small numbers of volunteers. It takes 2 years and requires 10-50 people.

Phase 2– this stage focuses on understanding the immune response induced by the vaccine in humans. It requires hundreds of healthy volunteers of the same age, gender and other laid down criteria to match the population segment for which the potential vaccine is being developed for. It takes 2-3 years.

Phase 3- To asses if the potential vaccine protects against that particular disease. Does it prevent the disease or does it prevent the development of the full-blown infection? How many doses are necessary to induce the appropriate Immune response?  How long does the induced immunity last?

This phase takes 5-10 years and requires thousands of eligible healthy volunteers to take part in the trial.

4.Regulatory review and approval- the researchers have to submit the data and information gathered through the trials to the regulators to gain approval for the potential vaccine. This stage can take 2 years. Once the potential vaccine passes this stage it is considered as a vaccine candidate now ready for licensing with drug and vaccine authority like the Food and Drug Administration of USA or the National Drug Authority of Uganda.

5. Manufacturing and delivery- the developed vaccine is manufactured at selected specialist facilities which are highly regulated and monitored.

Following this model for development of a traditional vaccine could take more than ten years and costs huge amounts of money.

As the COVID-19 virus continues to cause havoc worldwide , there is an urgent need to develop a safe, effective and affordable vaccine to prevent its quick spread and reduce the severity of the disease so that health care systems and the frontline workers do not get overwhelmed by it. The earlier we return to normalcy , the quicker our economies would recover from the  dire economic hardships induced by COVID-19 virus.

Thanks to the new technology innovations like Genome Sequencing- determining the complete arrangement/pattern of the germs’ genetic material- DNA at a single time.

These innovations can be safely used to develop the safe effective vaccine quickly: cutting the ten years to less than a year without compromising the safety, purity and potency of the new vaccine.

When the whole world seemed to be losing control over COVID-19 disease, the collaborative efforts of researchers, funders and volunteers started bearing some fruits.

Rainbows have started appearing in the sky giving us renewed hope.

They say ,“ Life is like a rainbow. You need both the sun and the rain to make its colours appear.”

The unprecedented COVID-19 crisis has demanded that scientists, medical doctors, funders and ordinary people form collective and collaborative partnerships to fight the pandemic.

9th November 2020- the New York –based drug company Pfizer and Biontech released the interim results of their phase 3 clinical trial. Their 2-dose vaccine was tested in over 43,000 enrolled volunteers. It was well tolerated and its efficacy was 92%. It is likely to cost 30-50 USD per dose and requires cold shipment and storage at minus 70 degrees Celsius.

11th November- Russia announced the completion of the phase 3 trials of its vaccine candidate Sputnik V, named after the world’s first satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. It was tested in 40,000 volunteers and proved to be 92.5% effective. The data and the information are yet to be shared worldwide.

16 th November- Moderna Inc and NIH announced the completion of the phase 3 trials for its Covid-19 vaccine candidate conducted in 30,000 volunteers in USA. It was found to be 94.5 % effective but has to be kept at extremely cold temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius.

23rd November- Oxford University in partnership with the drug company AstraZeneca plc announced the interim data from its phase 3 trials for their vaccine candidate. A 2- dose vaccine whose efficacy ranged from 90- 62% tested in volunteers in UK, Brazil and South Africa. Its main advantage is that it is cheaper to manufacture and can easily be transported at temperatures of an ordinary refridgerator(2-8 degrees C) It is likely to be sold between 3-5 USD per dose. The two partners did not develop the vaccine for profit but as a contribution towards stemming the Coronavirus crisis.

The period from March to early November 2020 is too short to give us most of the answers we need to know about the new virus and these vaccine candidates. We do not know how long the vaccine-induced immunity lasts. The studies will have to be conducted in other countries too.

It is claimed that these vaccine candidates prevented the infection and those who went on to develop the infection did not develop the severe type thus cutting down on the need for hospital admission.

This is a remarkable achievement in our time and we thank and celebrate all the teams involved.

Many doses  of the vaccines are required for the most vulnerable and the frontline health workers among the 7 billion people in the world. The more vaccines developed, the cheaper they become and the easier the distribution worldwide. According to the World Health Organisation, there are about 200 potential vaccines in development and at least 24 of them are in the human clinical trials phase. China, Russia , Germany, Israel are in this race too.

Challenges

Developing the vaccine is half the job done ; manufacturing and delivering the vaccine to those who need it most  in the developed and poor countries like mine, could be equally challenging. The vaccines have to be bought , transported to different countries and be administered to the most vulnerable and the frontline health workers including those in war zones or conflict areas. It has to reach those who need it most without losing its effectiveness from exposure to extreme heat or cold weather conditions.

This explains why the Oxford Univesrity- AstraZeneca vaccine which can be transported at temperatures of a domestic refridgerator holds more promise for those of us living in the least developed countries . Even at that level governments and health workers will have the challenge to educate their communities about the benefits and risks of the vaccine to boost its uptake.

We have come far since the Chinese scientists identified the COVID-19 virus and completed its genome sequencing from a patient with severe pneumonia previously working in the seafood market on the 7th January 2020. Never before has a vaccine been developed in such a short time!

 As we are living in the age of pandemics, the knowledge and skills that we acquire and the partnerships we create as we try to control the COVID-19 pandemic prepares us to manage future pandemics better. Viruses like HIV, Ebola, SARS and COVID live in wild animals like monkeys and bats as their natural hosts but as huge forests are being cleared for timber, farming and new settlements, the animals’ natural habitat is being reduced. Wild animals have been forced to move and live close to human beings. This makes it easy for the viruses to move from these animals and jump into human beings thus causing diseases like Ebola and Covid-19.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. African Proverb.

As we celebrate the best news about COVID-19 disease this year, each one of us has to remember the following:

Your health is you responsibility. You also have a role to play in stemming this pandemic.

Follow the public health safety and health guidelines.

Volunteer for the clinical trials when an opportunity presents itself.

Encourage  members of your community to use the new vaccine when it becomes available in your country.

QUESTION:

Have you identified your vital role in the control of the COVID-19 pandemic?

 Are you just a passive bystander?

We are all in this together.

SOME QUOTES ABOUT THE SIGNIFICANCE OF USING TIME EFFECTIVELY AND EFFICIENTLY

Nature provides us a constant reminder of the Seasons of Life

           

                             This is a follow up on my last post about the importance of Time Management in our lives.

                             

                              “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” – Theopbrast

                               “Time comes to us one second at a time.” Author unknown

                                 Generally, up to our mid- thirties, most of us feel that we have all the time in the

                                 the world to be what we want  to be and to do what want to do.

           When we hit our forties , it dawns  on us that we have lived more than half of        our lives and we start to face our mortality. By the fifties, many of us are feeling emotionally and socially liberated and  have accepted our mortality. We are no longer driven by titles or status, ambition and fears ,  but instead, we allow death to guide us  through life.

You get yourself ready for death but at the same time get into the habit of

  living for today-living life to the fullest.  You live life on purpose and use the time left well.                   

                                                                                         

 You endeavour to create something that will touch people’s lives and outlast you.

   Reaching the Age of Mastery(45 to 65)

     and the Age of Integrity  (65to 85+) where I happen to be , endows you with deep

    friendships,  satisfaction for mentoring the young and to explore your innate creativity.

   You have the freedom to awaken a “dormant self” that was left behind as you worked  for status and titles in society. This “new self” gives you a sense of aliveness like a fourteen years old. You write, you paint and dare to do new things. The psychologist call it passing the Time

Flies Test– immersing yourself into some pursuit or pleasure with such passion that

   time flies without you knowing it. At peace with your mortality, you try to be more

    efficient and more effective with your time; you want to conquer and savour more

    out of life. At the same time, you pay more attention and time to maintaining

     an adequately functioning body with an agile mind. You open yourself to new

      learning every day and you become  quick to absorb new experiences.

     I would say that you look at life as the most priceless gift you have  and you open your heart, mind and soul to receive it and enjoy it fully.

                                   

   Reflecting on my life at this moment in time has helped me to understand

   the real meaning and true purpose of life.

                            

     I am hopeful that these quotations about time and life would help you appreciate

  the true meaning of life and to recognise that life is short but you can get it right.

  1. Time is the school in which we learn, time is the fire in which we burn.”

                                                                                                            –Delmore Schwartz.

2. Never let yesterday use up today.”- Richard .H. Nelson

3. You cannot build a house for last year’s summer. – Ethiopian proverb

4. “ Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a weeks’ value out of a year while another

man gets a full year’s value out of a week.” – Charles Richards.

5 . Not everyone who chased the zebra caught it, but he who caught it, chased it.- African proverb

                                                                                                                                             

6.“Ordinary people think merely of spending time. Great people think of

Using it.” – Authour  Unknown

7.“ This time , like all times , is a very  good one , if we know what to do with it.”

                                                                                                  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

8. “Take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves.”- Henry David Thoreau

9. “ You’re writing the story of your life  one moment at a time.”

                                                                               – Doc Childre and Howard Martin

10. He who rests grows rusty. –   German Proverb

11. An inch of time is an inch of gold but you can’t buy the inch of time with

     an inch of gold.  – Chinese Proverb.  

12. “The way we spend our time depends on who we are.” – Jonathan  Estrin

13. “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” – Leo Tolstoy

14.  “Time is the best teacher.”

15. “The common man is not concerned about the passage of time, the man of

          talent is driven by it.” – Shoppenhauer 

16. “They say that time heals everything but I would say that after losing a loved one, time just makes it comfortable to live with the loss.” – Jane Nannono

        

17. “At this moment in time, nothing fascinates me as watching my grandchild

          blossom into an independent human being more so during the times we do not see each other.” – Jane Nannono

18. “If you love life, don’t waste time for time is what life is.” Japanese quote

Last but not least :  Harry Emerson Fosdick’s Definition of a Successful Life:

                                      To laugh often and much;

                                       to win the respect of intelligent people

                                       and the affection of children;

                                       to earn the appreciation of honest critics

                                        and endure the betrayal of false friends;

                                        to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;

                                        to leave the world a bit better,

                                         whether by a healthy child,               

                                           a garden patch or redeemed social condition;

                                         to know even one life has breathed                             easier because you have lived.

– HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK

                              QUESTION :  Are you busy just being busy or are you devoting 80%

                               of your time on the 20% most important things in your life?

TIME MANAGEMENT

This post was featured two weeks ago as a Guest Post on the Penandprosperblogpost.com, run by Jennifer Brown Banks , a professional veteran freelance writer and a professional Blogger in USA.

Photo by Sanah-Suvarna-Unsplash.com

I have kept a bedside alarm clock for as long as I can remember.

Good time management remains a big challenge to all of us and yet it is an integral part of productivity at the workplace and at home. It is crucial if we are to accomplish more with less effort.

Most of us have come across the scripture in the Book of Ecclesiastes chapter three verses one to eight entitled : There is a Time For Everything .

To me it is a constant reminder that life is short but I have to do the best I can while I am still alive.

Each one of us has only 24 hours in a day and the most productive and successful people among us are those who have mastered the craft of using these 24 hours efficiently and effectively.

Time management is about valuing your time and allocating enough time to work to achieve your day’s goals while leaving yourself some time to play and be with your family.

The old adage : All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy still holds.

I always add that : All play and no work makes Jack as poor as a church mouse.

Our bodies have an internal clock known as the Circadian Rhythm- the Sleep –Wake cycle controlled by the master clock in our brains. This master clock is directly influenced by the environment cues of daylight and night time.

During the day, the light stimulates the master clock to send signals to the body systems to stay alert, awake and active. This enables the body to perform at its best during the day.

At night, the darkness stimulates the master clock to initiate the production of Melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep, and keeps transmitting signals that help us to stay asleep throughout the night.

Our bodies need this  period  of 6-8 hours of sleep to repair and restore themselves and to boost our immune systems to fight off inflammation and infections and cancer cells. Adequate , regular sleep prepares our bodies  for the increased daytime activities.

 Inadequate sleep of less than 6 hours during the night, causes sleeping problems, high  stress levels and a poor- functioning  Immune system. Sleep deprivation can lead to some mental disorders like depression and anxiety while a weak immune system can cause recurrent infections , slow healing wounds and high stress levels.

Each one of us has a unique purpose and meaning for her/his life – one’s deep story.

The formal education we undertake enables us to identify and to act out our deep stories later in life as writers, teachers, doctors…… We live our own deep story day-to-day ; struggling to fulfill our potential in every area of our lives- personal, spiritual as well as professional.

This can only be done in the 16 hours we are awake each day. Time like death, is considered the greatest equalizer in life. Every day, we draw up to-do-lists, goal lists and Bucket lists which we hardly honour. This comes out of the feeling that time is never enough.

This quote from an essay: On the Shortness of Life written by Seneca, a Roman statesman and Stoic philosopher clearly identifies where the problem lies:

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste most of it. Life is long enough if you know how to use it.”

 To mitigate against this feeling of being short of time and to get more done in less time, we all have to master the art of Time Management.

This explains why Time Management is considered as one of the four pillars of productivity.

The other three pillars are :

.Task management– collecting and organizing all the stuff you have to do.

.Prioritising- what you do first.

. Focus- a way to reduce distractions and accomplish your goals.

For over eight years I have been a faithful student and follower of Michael Hyatt, an American author, podcaster, blogger and virtual coach. He focuses on leadership, productivity and goal setting in life.

This is what he has to say about how to plan and use your time effectively and efficiently:

  1. Rest –Start with enough rest at night- 7-8 hours.
  2. Prioritise- Decide what is most important in your life and do it first. Invest 80% of your time on the 20% most important things to you. Do it day by day, week by week for 52 weeks. Then the “urgent” does not crowd out the most important and it reduces procrastination. It stops you from spending your valuable time on pointless pursuits.
  3. Batch your work– line up related tasks and do them at once. Like replying and sending emails at the same time.
  4. Tame your Technology– technology improves our ability to get things done but set limits to its use when doing important things. Put your phone away or switch it off when doing important tasks. Do not allow yourself to become a slave to technology.
  5. Drop Drudgery– outsource what you do not enjoy doing. It leaves you free to what you love.

ON A FINAL NOTE

I grew up with a father who valued time and “Punctuality” became his middle name. My siblings and I are good at managing time. It creates order in one’s life.

Sadly I came back to a country that has lost the sense of time. The tangled traffic jams in the city compound the problem as well as the frequent heavy rains. I waste a lot of time while moving from point A to point B and back. It also drains some of the energy that I should have used to do more important tasks.

But my father would remind all of us to start the journey early enough to be on time and my devoted teachers would instruct us to carry an umbrella and a rain coat at work and at home.

I myself would share this Japanese quote with you : If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is.

QUESTIONS:

How are you managing time during these unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic restricted times?

In which areas do you struggle?

THE BRAIN FUNCTION: USE IT OR LOSE IT

The human brain and some of its network of connections.

Courtesy of circleofdocs.com

I have had to repost this article of 20/03 2019 because it is closely related to my last post : Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks. I believe that it will help you understand that post better but most importantly, it will help you understand why learning has to be a lifelong priority.

Brain function is one of those things that deteriorate as one grows old.  Watching my octogenarian mother struggle to play with the Rubik cube box , requiring skill and determination, made me think more about the age-related deterioration of brain function. One renown expert , Dr. Michael Merzenich  Ph.D. of Scientific Learning Corporation in Oakland , California has made numerous studies  in brain function. He tells us that this age-related functional decline can be reversed or be slowed down by engaging into mentally demanding activities. The mentally demanding activities include reading, solving hard crossword puzzles and playing brain games. They stimulate and challenge the brain unlike the simple mundane ones like walking to the neighbour’s or performing any task routinely.

  He also informs us that by the age of 40, most of us are largely using the abilities we acquired early in life. We could be said to be operating in automated pilot mode. We are doing things without being consciously engaged in what we are doing. As a result, gradually the brain function begins to slowly deteriorate. We become slow in action and slow in making decisions. He reassures  us that we can reverse this functional decline by appropriate stimulation of the brain with new challenges.

He therefore recommends  that each one of us should engage in new learning all our lives by picking new hobbies or learning new skills altogether. After the age of fifty, it is essential that we maintain and improve brain function simply by keeping it mentally active. An active brain is a healthy brain. We do not have to wait to grow old to start playing the recommended mentally demanding activities; the earlier we start the better.

Proverbs 19 verse 27 warns us that :  If you stop learning, you will forget what you already know.

I for one have started seeing the changes in bits and pieces: how fast I remember names, how often I misplace my pair of spectacles and  how fast I make decisions. In my attempt to restore and maintain more less normal brain activity, I have found the following activities extremely useful:

  1. Reading- I have been a voracious reader since the age of six. I read for fun then read for knowledge.

As a medical doctor I read a lot to acquire new knowledge, to remember what I already know but in my leisure time I read for fun. The Internet has increased access to reading materials to many of us. I can boldly say that this is the best time to be an avid reader.

I also make time to read and study my Bible first thing in the morning.

 Reading helps me to concentrate, and to engages my brain fully as I follow the characters through the story. It also improves my fluency in the language.

2.Writing- I would have cheated the literary world if I just read others’ books or blogs all this long.

I had to contribute to something which has given me so much joy and knowledge. I have published two fiction novels, several short stories and I am working on several of them at the moment. I have been running a personal blog since October 2016. I wanted to share my wealth of experiences and impact other people’s lives for the better.

 Since I have always had a curious, questioning and inquisitive mind, I always research what I write about thoroughly. This opens me up for more reading and acquisition of knowledge. I have made lifelong learning a priority. Posting articles regularly on my personal blog teaches me the discipline of remaining consistent and reliable.

As I write, I am fully engaged and my mind is taken off everyday worries. I am alone with myself so it helps me to decompress and unwind too.

3.Crossword Puzzles- I usually solve the crossword puzzles in the daily newspapers that I read and those in the magazines I buy regularly. I have been doing this for a long time. While researching about crosswords I noted with great interest that the first crossword puzzle was published in the New York World newspaper in December 1913!

As I try to solve the puzzle, I am fully engaged and focused on what I am doing. The hardest puzzles are the most engaging and challenging. Completing such a crossword puzzle gives me a sense of satisfaction. The feeling causes the brain to release one of the ‘feel good factors’ known as  Dopamine , in several areas in the brain. It is the Dopamine which makes us happy and motivated as we go through life. Small jobs and achievements throughout the week naturally keep up my Dopamine levels. Low levels of Dopamine are associated with feelings of apathy, depression and low energy.

Lately, I have picked up the number game called SUDOKU, a puzzle based on the 9 by 9 grid. It was first introduced in USA in 1970s. It exercises my brain immensely and has improved my memory and my number skills. In the last few days, I have graduated and taken on the MUDOKU, a number puzzle based on the 16 by 16 grid. It is more engaging.

Dr. Merzenich‘s team of top scientists has developed some brain games to improve the brain function.  You can look them up at BrainHQ. Playing them regularly sharpens the brain and as a result you think faster, focus better and remember more. Who would not want to remember more? I am at the beginner’s level but just like any learned skill, the more you practice, the better you become.

Next time I have a full house, I will dust off Chess, the board game. It is an engaging game that demands total concentration and intense focus. It tests your memory too.

Mark Twain said: “When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not.’’

And Thomas Fuller said:   “We all forget, more than we remember.”

QUESTION:

How fast are you at making decisions or remembering things?

 How often do you find yourself looking for your mobile phone, pair of spectacles or keys that you happen to be carrying in your handbag?

Has this post fired you to pick up any mentally challenging games like Chess?

Please take the COVID-19 Respiratory disease seriously so stay safe and healthy.

TEACHING AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS

The SUDOKU number puzzle that became popular in US in the 1970s.

There is an age-old adage that says : You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Simply put it means that like animals, it is quite difficult for old people to learn something new. They tend not to be open to new ideas.

For anyone to learn something new, you have to trust yourself and your teacher then open up your mind and heart to learn new things.

Interestingly, the theme for my blog is: Learning is a lifelong process. I chose it because I have always been fascinated about learning new things; I have been motivated by curiosity. As I grow older, I have traded in control or trying to change the world for wanting to understand it. The environment we live in controls our behavior so the more we understand it, the better we enhance the quality of our lives. One good example I can give is that for the two decades I lived out of Uganda , where Malaria fever is endemic, I lost my acquired resistance to the mosquito- transmitted disease . If I went down with Malaria at this moment in time, it would be as severe as in an under five Ugandan child! I could easily die from it. To prevent this from happening to me, I persistently sleep under a mosquito net. Consequently, I have not suffered from Malaria for the three years I have been back in Uganda.

We are living in the Information Age or Digital Age where we have instant access to knowledge and information.

This demands that all of us, young and old have to continue learning to remain useful to ourselves and others and to stay relevant and actively engaged with the world around us.

As Alvin Toffler (1928-2016) an American writer and one of the world’s outstanding futurist, rightly said:  The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write , but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

 Every day, I have to learn a myriad of new things, unlearn what is outdated and no longer holds true and relearn what still holds true in this age.

As we are now living longer than any other time in the history of mankind, keeping ourselves literate presents a huge challenge to those in their Second Adulthood : 45- 85 or beyond, more so to those in the last phase of this Second Adulthood (65-85 or beyond). My mother is close to her 90th birthday. I have been observing her closely and watching painfully as she gradually lost control over her life.

 For as long as I can remember, she has been a strong, independent woman with a lot of enthusiasm for life. She was a midwife for almost forty years, retired into mixed farming in the late 90s. I had never known her to fall sick until two years ago when the degenerative arthritis, little by little confined her at home. The inability to go where she wanted to go when she wanted proved to be more painful than the arthritis itself. It was made worse by the loss of her youngest child from cancer of the breast.

There are times when she has been lost in abyss of depression. With the family’s love and support , she has gradually chosen to progress other than decline. We are all trying to help her to achieve a state of successful ageing. Thankfully, she now concentrates on what she can do rather than on what she has lost. She is committed to rebuilding the enthusiasm for her life.

She has always  been the type of person who enjoys touching , holding and sharing affection with us the children and grand children but the social distancing demanded by the safety guidelines of controlling COVID-19 pandemic, has robbed her of this. Being a Digital grandmother, she keeps her mobile phone within easy reach to call any of us at leisure. She ensures that her phone is fully charged and has enough air time bundles to stay socially connected with her loved ones.

I enjoy filling in the Crossword puzzles in the daily newspapers to keep my brain challenged. Two weeks ago, an idea occurred to me: though my mother reads the daily newspapers, books  about the Ugandan martyrs and listens to the Catholic –supported Radio Maria regularly, she had some idle hours and her brain needed to be challenged afresh. That is when I started teaching her how to fill in the SUDOKU Number puzzle in the daily newspaper.  Initially she found it difficult to understand the pattern of the rows and columns and the rules. But I left her to learn at her pace and rhythm not to frustrate her. I gave her an exercise book to record the missing numbers in each column and taught her how to play with those numbers. For two days, we filled in a number of them together as I showed her how to do it step-by-step.

To her excitement, she mastered the pattern by the fifth day and by the sixth day she pushed the exercise book aside and started filling in the missing numbers directly in the blank squares!

Like any good teacher, I cheered her on and celebrated the little successes.

The most touching moment was when she immersed herself in it for about forty minutes, corrected the errors and handed it to me with her trademark smile. “I hope I got a hundred percent.’’

She has become better at it and now scores a hundred percent most of the time. She enjoys doing it and owns the game. No doubt the daily small wins have made her feel good and inspired her to get more done.

  When I informed the grand children about our new fun times, they requested me to take several photographs of her working passionately at her ‘‘game’’ and share them with them.

 Since then, they have been calling her to cheer her on. Many of them will be soon sending her a selection of SUDOKU books and jigsaw puzzles from where they are scattered worldwide.

A brilliant student challenges you as a teacher; you do not want her to get so used to what she is doing  that  it becomes a routine. Like the high jump track and field event, you have to keep raising the bar to stretch the contestant’s ability to the maximum.

So I introduced something completely new: I bought the first jigsaw puzzle for her from the children’s book section of a bookshop.

 It was of a mother elephant with her calf.  I went back to the basics as I had done with my own children: starting off with puzzles made up of fewer big pieces and progressively introducing puzzles with smaller pieces as they became better at it.

Through trials and errors, she is rising to the new challenge and loving it. I do not mind whether she takes the whole day as long as she completes it.

To my amazement, I have observed that :

She has grown more confident and daring.

She is more alert and has made a conscious effort to continue learning new things.

She talks more and engages more with the people around her and her old dog. She spends more time walking around in the compound. It is as if she has been given a new lease on life.

It is increasingly becoming easier for her to remember old things than before.

She concentrates and focuses more at her “game” and the jigsaw puzzles. She gets so deeply absorbed in what she is doing that she loses track of time.

She is more relaxed and happier- her Blood Pressure and heart rate readings are more stable than before.

Her enthusiasm for life has increased and she confidently says that she cannot afford to bury herself alive.

My octogenarian mother enjoying her new Number Puzzle- SUDOKU.

 Despite the loss of her two children and a twenty year old grandson, previously she had somehow found something to live for: her children, grand children and great grand children. Now that she is keeping her brain challenged every day, life is no longer dull and draining.

The scientist in me went to work to read more about how to keep one’s brain young and healthy and the health benefits of Jigsaw puzzles.

 Decades of research facilitated by the Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the brain (MRI), have shown that as we grow older, our brains shrink in volume. Ageing causes changes in the size, the blood vessels and cognitive processes of the brain. The less you keep your brain active by not doing challenging  tasks like learning  something completely new, the faster it shrinks. The same studies have shown that the brain size decreases by 5% per decade after the age of 40 and much faster after the age of 70. This negatively affects your attention and memory and increases the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

To slow down the brain function decline you have to practice the following:

  1. Regular physical exercise like taking long walks, running and swimming if you able. The brain changes begin midlife. Exercise is good for your heart, brain and body. Exercise increases the heart rate enabling the heart to pump more blood to the brain.  The increased blood flow to the brain improves cognitive function- a healthy mind in a healthy body.
  2. Reduce the stress- the stress response releases hormones like Cortisol and Adrenalin which affect memory and learning. You can reduce the stress by reading books, regular exercise, gardening, writing, painting, meditation, laughing and listening to good music or playing a musical instrument.
  3. Get plenty of sleep- at least  6-8 hours of regular sleep in the 24 hours of the day.
  4. Eat a healthy balanced diet consisting mainly of fish, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, olive oil and Antioxidant nutrients.
  5. Keep the brain active and regularly challenged. This is what is referred to as giving your senses and brain a daily workout.
  6. Remain socially connected- the bonding releases a hormone called OXYTOCIN from the base of the brain. Oxytocin increases bonding and trust in human relationships.

The SUDOKU number puzzles and jigsaw puzzles entertain and keep the mind active and sharp. As you fill in the numbers or pick the right small pieces and put them in the right place, you are engaging both sides of your brain and most of your senses. It stimulates the brain to grow and develop new connections thus slowing down functional decline. Completing the challenging task stimulates the brain to release DOPAMINE, one of the “feel good” chemicals from the brain. You end up feeling good, motivated and alert.

I clearly understand why my mother now feels energized and more engaged with everything around her.

This interaction with my mother has reminded me that learning is a lifelong process and that it also a two- way process.  As I teach her how to fill the Sudoku number crosswords and how to build jigsaw puzzles, I am also having good lessons in patience, humility and successful ageing. We are having fun together and bonding more as mother and daughter.

Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks, it just takes longer. How I wish I had introduced my mother to these brain –stimulating exercises earlier on.

Unexpectedly, two days ago I stumbled on a sealed packet of playing cards. I shall not hesitate to use them to spice up our fun times.

QUESTION: The brain changes due to ageing start midlife and the earlier you start practicing daily workout for your senses and brain the better for you.

Apart from what you do at your work place, what brain- stimulating activities do you practice every day?

A CELEBRATION OF LIFE’S HARVEST 11

My mother at 80, surrounded by some of her grandchildren and myself.

 This is a continuation of my last post. Worldwide, people are living longer and more are living into their nineties and beyond than at any other time before.

In my small family, my father died a few months close to his 90th birthday, his young sister died at 104, their niece celebrated 100 years last October and my mother is close to her 90th birthday. Since she retired as a senior midwife in 1994, she had taken up mixed farming. In the last two years, the chronic degenerative arthritis has increasingly slowed her down.

 My father and his sister had agile minds and were relatively mobile. I usually find their centurion niece planting sweet potato vines or digging in her banana garden and no one can stop her for this is what she enjoys doing. Her joy is her strength. The common traits among them is that they chose to focus on what was going right in their lives and engaged fully with what was going on around them. They could be generous to a fault too.

Warren Edward Buffett, the most successful investor in the world, the billionaire who has been giving away the majority of his wealth to charity annually since 2006, celebrated 90 years on 30th August 2020. He shows no signs of slowing down.

Now that we are living longer, it demands that we enlarge the boundaries of vital living.

This has already caught on in the advertisement field and in the slogans we see these days like:

Life begins at 60

and  90 is the new 60. They are aimed at pushing us to think about life beyond midlife, 45-65 and plan for our Second Adulthood if we are to get the most out of it.

Numerous studies and surveys about longevity have been done and continue up to today. Results from such studies  have divided Adulthood into two stages: 1St Adulthood and Second Adulthood. The second Adulthood itself has two phases.

. The 1 st Adulthood- this is the time from 30 to 45 years of age.

Generally the body is at its best. We feel young, energetic and consider the world to be at our feet. We have learned to be strong enough to take on life’s challenges and responsibilities so as to make a difference in the world. It is our time to compete, assert ourselves and collect achievements. We immerse ourselves in proving our ability and capacity to ourselves and others.

The sex roles as predetermined by our culture, demand that the women get married and become mothers while the men marry and become fathers. This is a very demanding time for the women in particular who have to juggle a career and a young family. They are so busy bringing up children, meeting financial responsibilities of a family and trying to make ends meet while at the same time building a career.

Dennis P. Kimbro said : “ Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.

. The 2nd Adulthood.

45-65- sometimes called the middle years and the first phase of the 2nd Adulthood.

45 represents the old age of youth while 50 ushers in the youth of the 2nd childhood.

This is usually the stage of greatest well-being in the lives of most healthy people. The competing, struggling and achieving is pushed aside to make space for finding your authentic sense of self- your core values, what you hold sacred and what puts spirit into your life.

You redefine personal success, take inventory of personal strengths and skills and use them to reinvent yourself. You want to remain relevant, useful to yourself and others and you want to be more and do more. Once you get this awakening , you begin to find ways of expressing your authentic self. You begin by letting go of the belief system that has informed you as you built your first identity. Other changes have to be made too in your career, lifestyle, habits and religious commitment. This is usually called the mid-life crisis. The main purpose is to make the next two or three decades your own.

By the age of 65, we have given our gifts to the world. We have served, we have accepted leadership in our families, communities and work places. We have launched our children , have a lot of time to ourselves which we can invest into expressing our authentic self.

In Uganda , the retirement age in the formal sector is 55 years of age and if one is to live to be ninety, then you have another thirty five years to go.  You cannot therefore just go on leading your life as you always have. It has gone stale or feels confining or empty. Yes, the environment we live in controls us but the yearning for something beyond family, your job or your friends forces you to trust yourself and open up and grow.

 You leave the familiar to experience the unfamiliar. Most times it is a risk worth taking. My childhood best friend, a lawyer by profession and among the first graduates of Makerere University Business School, is now a well established dairy farmer and another friend previously a teacher is an Events Organiser. I am also getting daily awakenings through my creative writing. Doing what we love and enjoying it keeps us young at heart and we just keep growing.

65-85 or beyond- this is the 2nd phase of the 2nd Adulthood. Also known as late Adulthood or the age of Integrity. All that you have lived through and learned adds up to gift you with grace and generosity that ushers you into the age of Integrity.

You recognise your accumulated skills and inner strength and feel that you should use them to teach, mentor or sponsor the young generation. If you made good use of the mid-life transformation, it will be extremely easy for you to create a new life for yourself. Failing to do this or just leaving yourself to rest on the laurels will turn you into the walking dead- a cause of accelerated aging. You need to stay alive, active, productive and creative to be healthy.

Some studies have shown that repeated creative daily routines like emotional writing, pottery, gardening and painting boost the body’s immune response. Getting absorbed into something creative increases the number of cells that fight off infections and cancer cells in our bodies and stimulates the release of Dopamine – one of the feel- good chemicals from the brain. The excitement of getting a result at the end of the task releases the Dopamine.

You can start all over again by simply embracing your mortality and rediscovering the enthusiasm, creativity and adventurous spirit  of your youth. Therein lies your power because the possibilities and rewards are usually beyond what you have experienced before.

As you go along this new path, you drop what no longer serves you and you pick what serves your new growth. Mistakes will be made but who cares, just keep moving forward into the unknown.

After all they say: “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.”

With the numerous technology innovations available to us, Mars is now the limit.

Just open yourself to new and more meaningful ways to be alive and do not forget to reach out and connect with others.

My octogenarian mother tells me that one of her biggest challenge at her age is losing loved ones and peers but she has tried to fight this by accepting her own mortality. At the same time she says that such deaths put her under the pressure of longevity and push her to do what she has to do for each day faster. She has also developed a sense of radical thankfulness that drives her to celebrate life every day.

Those who live beyond 90 have the following characteristics in common:

  1. Adaptability- at 90, they have all of them suffered big losses and setbacks but they mourn the losses and move on.
  2. Optimism- they look at life as an adventure and are willing to explore. They also have a marked sense of humour.
  3. They have a keen interest in current events.
  4. They have a good memory and would do what it takes to retain it.
  5. They take good care of their health- enjoying exercises and regular sleep of 6-7 hours during the night.
  6. They are religious- many have found their right place in a universe put together by a Creator.They all know too well that time is running out but they choose to focus on the present; savouring each moment. Time has gifted them with clarity about what they can control and what they cannot.  They live fully for one day at a time. This reduces the stress in their lives

But all these are things we should try to pick up as early as our 40th birthday.

All in all, we are in it for the long haul and if we are to harvest the rewards, we have to start planning for it in our youth.

Jim Rohn said: “You must take personal  responsibility; you cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, the wind, but you can change yourself.”

QUESTION:

How have you planned to get the most out of the next phase of your life?