Thursday, July 16, 2015

Buwoira - Ready to Use Girl Power to Tackle Malaria and Sanitation

It’s been one week since we came to Buwoira and we have been consistently walking and working in the village. Life in the village is something that we have all had to adjust to—even with electricity to charge our phones and laptops.

The Buwoira team is made up of all women: Ainslee, Ali, Deanna, Fiona, Mia, and Ruth. We all come from different backgrounds and are able to contribute something unique to the team. We have found that spending time together and learning about each other’s lives outside the internship has bonded us as a team and as friends. As a team, we are looking forward to the experiences the next few weeks will bring us.  

This week we’ve become well acquainted with some of our neighbors (both humans and animals) and have been welcomed into the Buwoira community. Our cook Medina and her daughter Aisha are at our house every day helping with chores and laughing (encouragingly?) at our attempts at Lusoga (Wasuze otya eyo!). Aisha is sweet and likes to run up from behind and tickle us, help us fetch water, and occasionally scare other kids away from our compound with a fuzzy caterpillar. A small horde of young children often appears on our front porch, spying on us through our front door and yelling “Mzungu Jambo! Mzungu Jambo!” For now the game is cute and endearing, but we will see if that changes as time goes on. And, of course, there’s our VHT (Village Health Team member) Ronald, who comes around to visit us every day. Although quiet, Ronald has been so kind and helpful, showing us around the village and buying as Mendaza from the market.

            A trio of adolescent goats that we named Herbert, Sebastian, and Godfrey constantly run around our compound. Herbert loves to enter our house and explore, and at this point we might make him sign our living contract! Other animal encounters include an obscenely large rooster who likes to walk around and crow at all hours, a confused mouse that wandered into our house one night, and the many flies that hang around our latrine when it needs smoking (sorry Deanna!)

We are generally woken up at 7am by Ugandan conversations held by people nearby. While bathing, there are people working ten feet away and the occasional motorcycle rides behind the back of our house. The land appears to be communal as animals are allowed to roam the village and the only time a fence is seen is around a trash pit. We are living in a shared place in Buwiora, where there are no visible boundaries for animals, kids, people, and happiness.

On our second day in the village we were returning from a walk when we saw a man running with a child in his arm
s. At first we laughed at the odd sight, until we learned that the child had malaria, and the man was running to the local health center, which was not nearby. That was our first heartbreaking glimpse at what a serious problem malaria is in Buwoira.

After talking to local leaders and visiting the local health center, we were even more aware of the burden of malaria in our village. The woman in charge of the local health center informed us that they see 15-20 new cases of malaria per day. Though the clinic has medicine to treat malaria, it runs out very quickly, leaving individuals to their own devices to find treatment. As many villagers are unable to travel great distances to seek health services elsewhere, this makes preventing malaria a top priority in Buwoira. We are excited to work with our Village Health Team, local leaders, and the local health center to help villagers prevent malaria and keep themselves and their families healthy.

Another part of our work includes surveying the village which requires us to enter different homes to inspect their required facilities, such as a toilet, plate stand, trash pit, tippy tap, and bathroom (shower area).  We have realized that most people know why they should have the facilities, however the facilities do not meet the required standard. We get the impression that they try their best to use the materials available to them to meet sanitation and hygiene requirements in their homes. Overall, we have been given a warm welcome during the follow-up surveys and people get pretty excited when “mzungu” educate them.

At this moment, I am just so proud of all my teammates for the amazing people they are and for adjusting quickly to this kind of life that our friends call “crazy”! 

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