Last year, on December 15, Hellen Kugonza, 23, gave birth to twins; Brenda and Gloria, at Hoima regional referral hospital.
The joy of becoming a nnaalongo (mother of twins) was short-lived. The doctors and Kugonza realized the twins were conjoined at the abdomen and in need of immediate surgery to separate them. They were rushed to Mulago national specialised referral hospital in the capital, Kampala.
At Mulago, the doctors determined that the twins needed to gain some weight before surgery. On February 15, a team led by Dr John Sekabira, a consultant pediatric surgeon and acting deputy executive director of Mulago, successfully separated the twins after eight hours. The twins shared a liver and parts of the heart, among other vital organs.
After a few months, the twins were ready for discharge but another challenge emerged. “We had worked on similar twins from Kole district in northern Uganda and immediately after discharge, one of the twins died due to malaria,” Dr Sekabira explained.
“With these twins, we sent a social worker to Bulinda Cell near Hoima City. The house we found wasn’t safe to raise such kids; so, we decided to retain them as we find a solution,” Dr Nasser Kakembo, a pediatric surgeon at Mulago, said.
Habitat for Humanity has now pledged to build a house for the twins and their parents as part of the affordable housing charity’s activities to mark its 40th anniversary in Uganda.
The revelation was made at Mulago hospital by Robert Otim, the national director of Habitat for Humanity Uganda.
“Hellen Kugonza and Moses Talemwa, parents of these twin girls, meet our criteria of people who deserve a decent house so that they can raise these children in a safe environment,” Otim said flanked by Dr Sekabira, Dr Kakembo and other senior hospital officials.
“This is the first of the 40 houses we are planning to build this year to celebrate our 40th anniversary,” he said. He appealed to other organizations and individuals to donate so that more people can be supported.
Since its inception in Uganda in 1982, Habitat for Humanity has built 40,000 houses across the country. Uganda faces a housing deficit of 2.4 million units and the number of people in need of decent houses is rising every day. It is estimated that 20 million people in Uganda live in places unfit for human habitation and another 12 million live without adequate shelter.
Increasing the availability of decent housing across the country is essential because it directly provides access to clean water and sanitation. Lack of clean water and sanitation kills more than 1.8 million young children every year. The twin’s parents Kugonza and Moses Talemwa, 21, thanked Mulago hospital for saving their twin daughters.
“The doctors, nurses, and all staff have treated us like their own children and the twins as their grandchildren. It is a miracle to save our children and a miracle that we are even getting a decent house where we can raise these children,” Kugonza said, with a broad smile.
A typical Habitat for Humanity house for the rural setting has a 3,000-litre tank and VIP pit latrine and costs approximately Shs 25 million while the one in an urban area costs approximately Shs 35 million.