Emilio Uwondo is a truck driver, who has faced many challenges during his lifetime. He learnt how to manage hardship in his journey. Now he is encouraging other drivers to practice good health and leave behind risky behavior.
“I started driving in 1992, after the loss of my father. At this time I was in senior two, with such a tragedy, my family did not have enough money to continue paying for my education,“ tells Mr. Uwondo Emilio, 52 years old, living in Zombo District. With the little money available, he joined a driving school and after he got his license, he started to drive a small pick-up transporting food stuff to surrounding markets. Two years later, he was already driving a bigger truck bringing second hand clothes and silver fish to remote areas of Zombo and on his return journey, he transported farmers´ produce of Irish, beans, matooke and maize.
But the transport sector has it´s own challenges, ranging from health, to social and economic challenges. Truck drivers mostly work on pressure. Their bosses demand to deliver goods in time, yet roads in rural areas are often in bad condition, causing break downs or delays in time, which leads to problems with the clients. During Covid 19 lockdown movement was restricted countrywide and drivers had to get permission from the Resident District Commissioner before leaving their particular area. Mr. Emilio noted there was a habit of police officers collecting money from truck drivers at the various check points that were spread across the country. Under these conditions he was forced to borrow money from his saving group and invest in planting beans, matoke and maize as food and for sale.
When he had the chance to attend a training for truck drivers organised under IERC project by Advance Afrika, Emilio was sensitized about Occupational Health of truck drivers, especially in the topic of “coping mechanisms to prevent transmission of diseases”. He learnt that transmission of diseases such as HIV/AIDs can be controlled through the use of condoms and behavior change. Many amongst his fellow truck drivers are affected by HIV or other sexual transmitted diseases. They do not get time to take their ARVs or are not interested, which has led to the loss of a number of truck drivers. After the training Emilio started to sensitize other truck drivers how to maintain health, use condoms and leave behind sexual risky behavior for their own protection and to fight prostituion. Currently he is a member of Paidha Truck Drivers Association and has gained reputation and respect among other drivers.
Emilio Uwondo is a beneficiairy of “Improving the Economic Resilience of West Nile Youth in the Face of Covid-19“ (IERC), which is a two year action implemented by Advance Afrika in partnership with Faraja Africa Foundation with funding of the European Union.