Monday, October 5, 2009

The Mystery of the Disappearing Butongole Village Health Team Members...

Today Julius and I conducted a Village Health Team (VHT) follow-up in Butongole, with Rogers Mandu from Uganda Red Cross. Rogers, the program manager from Uganda Red Cross, had personally trained the Butongole VHT, and so we expected to see great things from the members: beautifully-set-up dish-drying racks, immaculate latrines, well-constructed bathing rooms, well-kept trash pits, etc. Saidi, the VHT chair, and Nsoni, the mosquito net distributor, met us upon arrival in the village in order to walk house to house with us, showing us around and learning the follow-up routine themselves.

To our surprise, even though began walking around lunchtime, the first two VHT members were not home. And, to make matters more disgruntling, their homes lacked almost all of the sanitation facilities about which they had been taught during training. We moved to the next homes... still, no VHT members. It was incredible - lunch is taken seriously in Uganda, a sit-down-in-the-yard meal that is rarely, if ever, missed. (No granola bars and coffee to-go here!) We moved to the next houses... still deserted, and this time it seemed like we could see people fleeing as we came! Every house except one was sadly lacking in any sanitation or health measure implementation.

Finally, we actually got to one house where a pot full of food had been left cooking above a roaring fire in the outdoors kitchen - clearly, the family had fled suddenly as they saw us approaching! "Your lunch is burning," Rogers called out to the apparently empty compound. No answer. We moved around the compound as usual, checking on the facilities, and as usual they were disappointing. As we left, we turned around to see a teenage girl crack open the house window to watch us go, giggling at this new and improvised game of adult hide-and-seek.

We stopped about 1/3 of the way through the list of VHT members. Apparently, nobody had been informed of our coming, which is probably why they all ran as we arrived. In Bulumwaki and Nabitovu, Village Health Team members had known for a week or so that we would be coming to do follow-up, and so they had began implementing many of the measures taught in the days before we came. Here in Butongole, we had caught them unawares. We agreed with Saidi, the VHT chair, to come back next Monday around the same time. He promised, this time, to make sure all VHT members knew of our coming, so that they had time to improve their compounds before we arrived. So, we shall see next week how the issue progresses...

No comments: