I have been thinking about the cost of living in Kibaale, Uganda over the past few weeks and it all came to a climax the other day…. when I was told the price of fuel (gas) for motorcycles, cars, and lamps increased 300 %….. Yes, in one day the price went from 3,400 shillings for a litre of fuel to 9,000 shillings and it is expected to increase even more to somewhere around 10,000 to 12,000 shillings a litre.

But this may not make any sense to you….. so lets start with things that the average person in Kibaale would buy. For 1,000 shillings they can buy any one of the following: 5 large tomatoes, 1/2 kilo/ 1 pound of onions, one soda (pop), 3 large avocados, 4 green peppers, two large bunches of finger bananas/ 5 large bananas, 5 small chapatis, 10 small cassava chips, or 4 banana pancakes, two pens, two clear plastic rules, four receipts books or one large plastic envelop…….. these are some of the items which I have been able to purchase in Kibaale.

The staff of the clinic are paid a salary equal to those of a government employee. Besides their salary, the clinic staff receive free housing, free medical coverage as well as breakfast and lunch. The cleaning staff take home about 107,000 shillings while most of the nurses take home just over 250,000 shillings and still each one of them does not have any money in their pocket for anything extra. Some of them cook for themselves but many eat out on street food where the price varies from 1,000 to 2,000 shillings. The best restaurant in town, or the only restaurant I would eat in serves a complete Ugandan meal from 2,000 to 5,000 shillings per plate.

Each one of the clinic staff help support at least two or three other persons and some even more. I have heard that somewhere between 60 to 80% of the population of Uganda is unemployed. So, those who do have a job are expected to support their family and extended family.

In Masaka, the next largest city to Kibaale which is about 2 hours drive… the prices are much higher. 5 tomatoes cost 1,200 shillings and you will only get 2 large or three small avocados for 1,000 shillings. Chapatis cost 300 shillings a piece and a bunch of bananas is usually 600 to 700 and a soda cost 2,000 shilling. BUT in Masaka you can buy bread at 2,300 shillings a loaf; a can of tuna fish for 5,000 shillings; cooking oil for 7,000 shillings and 1/2 pound of butter for 6,000 shillings. My favourite restaurant, Frickadallen is part of Ugandan Child Care, a Danish organization. I love their Danish meatballs with potato salad and a side of a tomatoes and green pepper salad. This along a latte is only 22,000 shillings. A good deal to me for about $10 Can.

Unfortunately, the cost of medications is expensive…… the people who come to the clinic pay only 10,000 shillings but for that they get everything from consultation to all available treatments, blood work and any medications prescribed. The cost of quinine tablets for the treatment of Malaria is over 5,000 shillings. One cough syrups is over 2,000 shillings and most injectable antibiotics are at least 700 shillings per dose and most patients get anywhere from one to ten doses. No one goes home from the clinic without at least three medications… usually one for Malaria, one for some type of infection and a pain medication such as Tylenol.

1,000 shillings does not go very far…. the cost of living is quickly increasing in this part of Uganda and even the staff who have some money are very concerned about how they are going to survive…. so what about the village person who lives off the land. It is now the dry season and the crops are in……

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