You may have seen a tiny island before – but you’ve never seen an island like this one. When most people picture a small island; they all imagine the same thing. Treasure chests overflowing with golden coins; rubies and diamonds. Treasure maps. The smell of sea salt in the air, seagulls flying gracefully on the horizon, the texture of the warm sand beneath your feet. The warmth of the sun on your skin.
Would you expect an Island the size of a football field to have it’s own pharmacy? Would you expect the tiny island was the subject of an ongoing Military conflict? What if you found out the island is one of THE most densely populated islands in the world?
One student found himself investigating this island microcosm and found it forced him to question everything he thought he knew.
As he gained the trust of the residents on Migingo Island he entered the deep underbelly of island life and what he discovered was truly AMAZING.
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The student discovered that the tiny island of Migingo is a fascinating place! Although occupying only 2000 square meters, its population is massive. It is not what you would expect in such a small piece of land in the waters of Lake Victoria. The vigorous activities carried out on the island will leave you in awe.
What is the population?
Migingo is among the smallest islands in the world. Given the size of the land, you may think that very few people live there. However – according to the 2009 census 131 people call this tiny island home; making it one of the most densely populated places in the East African region.
This area has a pub, a brothel and a pharmacy.
Where is Migingo Island and who owns it?
The Migingo Landmass lies on the Kenya – Uganda border. Over the years, there have been a fuss on which country owns the isle.
Recently, the Kenyan and Ugandan governments have been trying to reach an agreement on the island’s ownership but to no avail. None of them wants to lose the “golden island” to the other.
What next for the residents?
Since no agreements have been made, Kenyan and Ugandan fishermen have been arming themselves over the conflict.
This state is so destabilizing for the residents of Migingo Island since their day to day activities are disrupted, and people are left with no food or source of income.
What is the history of this fascinating island?
There have been claims that the island was first discovered in the year 1991 by two fishermen. According to the two fishermen, the isle was covered with weeds and also infested by serpents.
The place was endowed with Nile perch and that attracted the fishermen to settle there.
Why are people living here?
Just like any other residential areas, people are attracted to a place because of a couple of reasons. Some being work, culture, living standards, reputation of a place, weather, and the people living there among other factors.
Day to day activities of Migingo Island
Most of the people living in this island are not educated. This means that they earn a living by doing casual jobs or any activity that gives them the means to survive. The major financial activities of people living in the Migingo isle include fishing and prostitution.
This island’s major activity is fishing, with the main fish found in this area being Nile Perch. Most people living here rely on fish as their source of income and main dish.
Therefore, the fishermen wake up in the morning to go fishing and later on they sell in the market. Some of them have been lucky to get outside markets and this means more income for them.
There is not much activity that goes on here. Most of the people are uneducated and so they hardly think of saving or having other businesses to earn income. They live each day as it comes.
Therefore, most men spend their money on drugs and sex. This has become a way of moneymaking for some of the people, with several brothels being set up in the area to serve the purpose.
How safe is the place especially when sailing in the lakes?
Since most people fishing are not trained or professionals, they sometimes get drugged out there and even get exposed to theft. They hardly have safety equipment with them thus making it even more risky.
In case a boat spoils when out in the lake, there is no way of calling for help for most of the fishermen. In some cases, some stranded fishermen have had to wait for up to two days to get help.
How marketable are the Fish?
The major fish species in this area is Nile perch. This is mainly because the waters are deep favoring their survival. Nile perch is able to fetch international markets and thus a huge market is created.
However, large companies have posed great competition to the local people. They have the financial power and resources to package, market, and transport their fish better than the locals. This dries off the locals market.
Social Activities in the area
Just like any other community, Migingo Island residence engage in various social activities. Some of them include going to bars, playing games, drinking and attending the church, and more.
These activities help the people network, know each other and get to live in peace. However, the disappointing thing is that most of the time is spent on doing drugs and engaging in sex for money.
How do people in Migingo Island eat?
Most people living here are very poor. The environment surrounding the area is very un-conducive because of pollution. The water in the area is not treated and there is sewage right outside the houses.
This goes without saying that they eat unclean and unhealthy food. The main food dish in the area is fish and no vegetables are grown here, making most people suffer from malnutrition.
Health and Diseases in Migingo Island
Due to poverty, people are hardly able to buy oil or paraffin. They therefore result to cutting down trees for fuel and energy. This leads to deforestation which in turn results in the lake water becoming acidic indirectly.
In addition, people live in very dirty surroundings as well as houses. They feed on unclean food and drink untreated water. This leads to very many diseases.
HIV & AIDS in Migingo Isle
Remember we said prostitution in this area is like an economic activity for most locals. The bad thing is that they engage in sexual activities without using any protection. The major reason for this being that engaging in sex using protection fetches less money compared to when one avoids protection.
Additionly, men in this area mostly engage in drugs and sex. This leads to transmission of AIDS as well as other sexually transmitted diseases through modes such as sharing drug injection needles.
Medical facilities and Education
It is very disappointing how an island with a very high population can lack medical facilities or schools. It is a very bad place for children to grow in since they cannot access healthcare or education.Only a pharmacy exists here and therefore pharmacists are the only ones who can administer treatment even in cases of severe emergencies.
Over the years, trained people from NGO’s have been deployed to the area to bring awareness to the people on HIV& Aids as well as proper sanitation.
How do people survive in Migingo Island?
The Kenyan population is 80% while Ugandans are only 20% of the entire population. It takes three hours to get to the Island when one is travelling from Kenya using a motorbike.
Migingo Island has four pubs, a pharmacy, a hair salon, a brothel and a church. This is basically what people living here survive on.
This community and way of living attracts both local and international tourism. Visitors or tourists are charged only two thousand shillings per week to stay in the boarding houses.
This is very cheap compared to the rates of visiting other nearby places. Therefore, nothing much is gained when people visit.
What is the future of Migingo Island?
The people living in this island have continuously cut down trees leading to deforestation. Deforestation leads to acidity in the lakes. The lakes are affected by the acidity which depletes fish.
In the future, the fish are going to be inadequate and thus make it hard for the residents to earn an income.
Recommendations for the Problems in the Island
The government should come up with ways that can help to keep the lake clean. In regards to the health of the people, professionals in the health industry should be sent out to train people on various ways of keeping proper hygiene and avoiding disease infections.
Lastly, a solution on the fights between Kenya and Uganda should be reached by both governments for the sake of the island’s peace and future prosperity.