Few people consider working in a mortuary a first class career choice. However for 50-year-old Richard Nambafu his 17 years of employment at Mbale Municipal Mortuary are defining moments in his career and in his life.
Nambafu, a father of 15 children, was employed at Mbale Municipal mortuary in 1992. His job involves cleaning and treating dead bodies with his bare hands, for which he is paid a paltry 180,000 shillings per month.
Richard Nambafu says he has risen up the ranks over the past 17 years to become Chief Morgue Attendant. His day begins at 8:00 a.m. when he arrives to inspect the mortuary, to take count of the new bodies and to oversee the treatment, delivery and burial of bodies. The work continues until 6:00 p.m. when he leaves for the day.
The work at Mbale Municipality Mortuary is pretty routine for Nambafu. But he says it has not always been this way. He says it was very hard for him to get used to working with dead bodies and he had to deal with superstitions his friends and neighbors had regarding his work.
Nambafu recalls two incidents which forever will stand out in his mind as defining his work as a mortuary attendant in rural Uganda. The first incident occurred in 1992 when a passenger train crashed in Kumi, killing nearly all people aboard.
Nambafu says the impact of the crash was so great that he and other mortuary had to pick body parts from the rail tracks with their bare hands.
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Nambafu says he will also never forget an incident last year when a pack of wild dogs entered the Mbale Municipal Mortuary because it had no doors and they begun to eat the dead bodies. By the time Nambafu reached the mortuary, the dogs had scattered the mutilated bodies in the compound outside.
The morgue attendant says his work situation has improved slightly since then, but not by much. Although the mortuary now has doors, it does not have windows. He has some protective gear, but not enough to fully guarantee his safety and the safety of his colleagues.
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Nambafu says that although his is not the job of his dreams, it pays some of the bills and he will continue to work at it faithfully.