Susan Kemigisha (22) and her siblings have given up on eating meat because their neighbour in Hoima is a mortuary that houses the corpses of people who have passed on.
Their home is not the only neighbour to the mortuary in Ishaka, Kijungu Kahoora division.
Landlords with rentals close to the mortuary say that its presence has cost them business. One landlord who prefers to retain his anonymity says, “My tenants have never spent more than two months in my five rooms. Some come without knowing the proximity of mortuary but due to the smell, they get to know and shift immediately at the end of the month.’’
Kemigisha and her siblings can relate to the plight of the landlords. They have lived next to the mortuary for two years since their father purchased land next to it and constructed the bungalow they live in.
In the beginning, Kemigisha confesses that once they realized they had come to live next to a mortuary that houses dead people, “We could not sleep at night without the lights on.”
She says, “We would keep praying in the night for the morning. The worst times were when we would see dead bodies being brought to the mortuary in all manner of circumstances. That would haunt us.”
The worst experience, though, Kemigisha recalls, was when, “One day I saw a dead body of a woman whose body parts were in pieces being taken into the mortuary. That experience made it hard for me to eat meat. Always my mind would tell me, ‘You are eating the lady’s meat.”
Since that sight, the family has more or less stopped eating meat.
They have also become almost inured to another unpleasant reality first time visitors find unbearable. She says, “The only problem we have now is the smell that comes from the decomposing bodies that makes us think that the bodies are not treated.’’
The mortuary is Hoima municipality’s only facility to cater for dead bodies. The mortuary does not have running water or electricity. The facility has the look of being long neglected with grass growing wild in the compound, window panes broken with a deserted look about it.
Baguma Edison, a local defense member Ishaka village, corroborates Kemigisha’s account and says many visitors do not stay long in the area because of the overpowering smell of decomposing bodies.
Baguma says all unclaimed bodies found in the municipality are brought to the mortuary.
Although several residents next to the mortuary have petitioned the municipality to improve the condition of the facility, Baguma says their hands are somewhat tied.
He claims that most of the residents close to the mortuary are actually encroachers on the facility’s land.
He says, ‘’Almost half an acre was left for the mortuary with many unclaimed bodies buried there, but on our surprise, we saw locals buying part of the land and putting up strong, permanent structures and we area leaders chose to give it a deaf ear since the selling of that land had a lot of politics in it.’’
However, Hoima municipality town clerk Geoffrey Bamanyisa says that there are plans to renovate the mortuary and install piped water lines come 2021.
This remains the hope residents clutch onto as they endure the awful smell that wafts on the breeze towards their homes, as neighbours to a mortuary.
Edited by David Tumusiime