The Bwindi Community Hospital

​The Batwa Outreach Program


USD 25.000 grant
to improve the water, sanitation, hygiene 
and psychosocial situation 
among the Batwa communities 
living in Kanungu District, Bwindi, Uganda

The Community

The Batwa Indigenous people

inhabitants of the Great Lakes region of Central Africa, the Batwa were semi-nomadic forest-dwelling expert hunter-gatherers. Currently, they speak many different languages and live in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with an estimated total population of 86,000 to 112,000. The Batwa identify as Indigenous People and share many of the cultural traits indicated in Article 1 of the ILO Convention no. 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries. And even though some still practice the ancient traditions that are part of their rich culture, their traditional way of life is disappearing. Their rights are systematically violated, and they suffer grave prejudice and discrimination.  

Conservation Refugees

In 1991, following conservation projects by the Ugandan government and Western international agencies primarily to create national parks to protect endangered mountain gorillas, the Batwa were removed from their ancestral forests. This was done without their free, prior and informed consent, any public hearing or compensation. Consequently, this ancestral forest-dwelling people, who lived in harmony with other species and their surrounding environment and were not responsible for the dwindling numbers of mountain gorillas, suffered a sudden and profound change in their way of life. Now, fortunately, mountain gorillas are no longer considered endangered. But the Batwa people and their culture are.

Dispossessed, Marginalized

Land. For many, if not all, Indigenous Peoples, land means home, the source of physical and spiritual sustenance, the source of medicine and health practices, and the source of culture and identity. Such is the case for the Batwa, who now live in a harsh and precarious situation, with limited access to food, shelter, clothing and healthcare. Dispossession of land meant being unable to hunt or gather, leading to extreme poverty and a breakdown of social relations. Without being able to practice their ancestral traditions and organize according to their traditional social structure, many felt they had lost their identity. This exacerbated the negative stereotyping: uncivilized, lazy, depraved and physiologically inferior because of their height.

The Need

Healthcare and Safe Water

Along with social marginalization, their small numbers and almost inexistent political representation mean institutional marginalization as well. Their access to state health services, clean water, shelter, food and education is minimal. The discrimination they face extends to the health workers who often ignore or neglect Batwa patients looking for care. Living in the forest outskirts, in small settlements with meager living conditions, also contributes to the problem. Once renowned as experts in medicinal herbs, without access to healing resources from their ancestral home and living in extreme poverty, they have become increasingly vulnerable to disease and substance abuse. As a result, rates of HIV and AIDS and other diseases are very high among the Batwa. Their life expectancy is 28 years old. Twenty-eight. 

The Grantee

The Bwindi Community Hospital

Started as an outreach clinic under a tree in 2003 by a US missionary doctor who came to Bwindi to serve the Batwa population, the BCH has become one of the few places in this remote region where the entire population can access quality healthcare. It serves 120,000 people living in the South Western corner of Uganda and provides vital services, such as Child Health, Sexual & Reproductive Health, Surgery, HIV Prevention and Care, Community Health & Batwa, Satellite Clinics, Out Patient, Adult Inpatient, Diagnostics, Research and Education. 

The Project 

 The Batwa Outreach Program

AWF's relationship with the BCH started in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. By raising donations, we were able to support the Bwindi Community Hospital with a grant to secure salary and transportation for a nurse to serve the Batwa community by explaining COVID-19 hygiene and prevention measures and providing soap. This crucial healthcare outreach lasted for eight months and served 1120 members of the Batwa community. Read more about our first grant to the BCH.

Last year, while evaluating our earlier support to the Bwindi Community Hospital's Batwa Outreach Program, we realized its incredible potential to improve many more aspects of the Batwa's quotidian.

In June this year, we gave the BCH a USD 25.000 grant to improve the water, sanitation, hygiene and psychosocial situation among the Batwa communities living in Kanungu District by working towards four objectives:

  1. Establishing the baseline situation;
  2. Increasing the number and usage of water and sanitation facilities coverage to over 90% in all the 210 households in all the 12 Batwa settlements in Kanungu district;
  3. Reducing the prevalence of skin and diarrheal diseases to less than 5% of the Batwa population in Kanungu District;
  4. Reducing the percentage of families and individuals with substance use and other psychosocial challenges from 35.5% to less than 15%.

You too can support the Batwa and the extraordinary work of the Bwindi Community Hospital, head to

Here's an episode of our segment, "Voices from the Ground", featuring the Batwa Outreach Program team from the Bwindi Community Hospital explaining how the program is improving the lives of the Batwa living in Kanungu district, Uganda:

Update #2    March 15, 2023   

Oyesiga Barnabas, the Communications Team Leader at the Bwindi Community Hospital, kindly sent us an update on the project's progress. 

In January, when the rains eased, they started building the pit latrines. They began in the settlements furthest from the hospital. So far, the hospital's Batwa Outreach team, together with the community, have completed twenty-nine pit latrines for the Batwa settlements. They have built four pit latrines in Mukongoro, four in Bikuto, six in Kebiremu, two in Kanyashande, five in Kihembe, four in Kitariro, and six in Kitahurira. They expect to finish the remaining sixteen pit latrines (in Byumba, Rurangara, Karehe, Bwanya and Buhoma) by the end of next month.

Community members at Kabwana after getting tools

We've learned so much from our partners of the Bwindi Community Hospital and their holistic approach to addressing the Batwa's health inequities. The community's engagement in these efforts reflects how much this project is helping to lessen the burden of decades of marginalization and how their skills are invaluable in improving their living conditions.

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