Thursday, December 21, 2017

Mystery Can Mean Misunderstanding

By Edmund Okiboko, Managing Director

UVP intern Augustine engages with community members at an
HIV outreach in Kamira.
When a woman suddenly died, the mystery sent the community abuzz. The consensus was that she was infected with HIV. Ngobi, the husband she left behind, was distraught and confused, and began to believe their speculations and assumed he was also HIV positive.

Months later, during UVP’s biannual HIV outreach in the village, Nurse Nalwogo learned of this man’s situation and, as a long-time partner with UVP, new she needed to attempt to speak to him. She walked the short distance to his home, less than a 3 minute walk, and said, “kodi” (knock, knock, anyone home?). Ngobi welcomed Nurse Nalwoga hesitantly. After traditional greetings and inquiries of the health of family members and livestock, Nurse Nalwoga gently directed the conversation to the event, visible from Ngobi’s house. With a little more encouragement, Ngobi agreed to go with Nurse Nalwoga to take an HIV test.

To Ngobi’s surprise, he tested negative for HIV. He was not convinced of his status by this one test, so he pursued another one the following week at his local health center. It, too, was negative! Ngobi was so happy that he visited Nurse Nalwoga at her regular health center in Namungalwe to share the news. The two rejoiced.
Fast forward six months: UVP is conducting the second HIV outreach in the village for the year. Ngobi arrives to the event and immediately seeks out Nurse Nalwoga; her brief visit and encouragement to test has changed his life. The extra 10 minutes she spent seeking him out, patiently explaining the benefits of confirming his status, and educating him on ways to prevent new infections of HIV is how UVP strives to be different. Health is a journey and there are many influences in each person’s story.

“When UVP started working closely with our health center, we have also been able to reach out to villages and interact with the people we serve,” Nurse Nalwoga reflects. By building relationships with nurses at nearby health centers, UVP breaks down obstacles keeping rural communities from accessing health services.
Nurse Nalwoga appreciates UVP’s partnership approach noting that “Uganda Village Project effectively engages VHTs in all its programming and empowers them to refer patients to the health center from an informed point of view.”
She adds, “This has also greatly improved on the knowledge base of community members because they now know where to get health care services hence, making a difference.”

Ngobi’s story has been used with his permission, though his name has been changed to protect his privacy.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Safina’s Journey and Victory

By Maria Gorret Nampiima, Alumni, 2016/2017 Intern Cohort, Nabirere and Kamira

An energetic and confident woman, Safiina sits, smiling, during the education portion of our recent family planning outreach in Bufutula. Pursuing family planning services has not been an easy journey for Safiina: she has struggled with complications from contraceptives, battled stigma from her neighbors, and resistance from her own children.

As opposed to other health interventions, family planning causes the most debate among policy makers, religious leaders, and neighbors. Despite the negative perceptions people have towards adopting family planning methods, the prevailing circumstances in most of the developing countries have left many with no other option: in Uganda there has been an upward curve of contraception use of nearly 20% (Andi, Wamala, Ocaya, and Kabagenyi, 2014). But this increase does not come to those who lack strength.

Safiina, a mother of eight children and one of our clients in Bufutula village, shared her story about why she started using contraceptives. Similar to most women in rural villages prior to the implementation of UVP health programming, she did not want to use family planning services. She had been told falsely that contraceptives cause conditions like hemorrhage and infertility because it destroys the ovaries. Since her family depended on subsistence farming as the only source of income, she and her husband lacked enough capacity to provide basic needs to their children; clothing, education, and medical treatment all seemed out of reach. As a result of having very limited resources, she lost a child. After attending a community sensitization held by UVP and considering her personal situation, Safiina began taking contraceptives.

With 47% of people receiving their information primarily by word of mouth (Population and Housing Census, 2014), it’s no wonder rural women in Uganda do not utilize contraceptives more; nearly half of the information they receive is tainted with bias and subjectivity, which allows misconception to run rampant. UVP addresses this gap with a unique, relationship-based approach. But this takes time. And communities need people like Safiina.

Realizing her influence on her children, Safiina urged her eldest daughter to pursue contraceptive methods. At a tender age of 17, Safiina’s first born dropped out of school and is now a mother to a one-year old boy. Safiina now sees that her children’s lives could be different if she had been in a position to space her children. She wants a better life for her grandchildren.

After trying multiple methods to find the most compatible option for her body, Safiina has settled with a quarterly injection of Depo. Having taken on the initiative to utilize the family planning services, she is not worried about having pregnancies she has not planned for. Additionally, she feels energetic enough to work for her children. Although she has benefited from the program, she claims her husband is not supportive, which can make her contraceptive use challenging to continue. Despite this challenge, Safiina acts as an ambassador for the UVP family planning program.

Community members like Safiina greatly appreciate our partners and stakeholders who work hand-in-hand with us to ensure that we increase access of health interventions to people in rural communities of Iganga. On this note, we call upon all social change agents to come on board to support our programs morally and financially to continue to strengthen UVP’s capacity in addressing social inequities and injustices through facilitating health and well-being of rural communities in Uganda through access, prevention, and education.

Want to help us continue to support Safiina and other women in Bufutula? Make a contribution and specify the family planning program. And follow us on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook to see your UVP family in action in the villages. Safiina's story has been used with her permission.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

She Can Be Both: Farmer and “Musawo”

By Tulibagenyi Patrick, Program Manager, WASH

Her hands are dirty, but not because she hasn’t washed them recently. She’s been working in her garden all morning, like she does almost every day, weeding, pruning, and caring for her small crop. Catherine Namatende from Muira village is a sustenance farmer; she grows food for her family to eat and a little more to sell to cover life’s typical expenses such as health care and school fees. Staying healthy is important to Catherine; if she is too sick to work or if she has to take a child to the health center, her crop can falter and her family can go hungry. There’s a lot at stake.

Catherine also acts as a Village Health Team member (VHT), one of five people in her community dedicated to spreading positive and accurate health messages to prevent illness. UVP works directly with VHTs like Catherine to ensure they maintain updated knowledge and provide support for the work they carry out in the villages. These are the first contact persons in the village and they contribute greatly in disseminating information about health related programs in the villages.

For the past four months, Catherine and her colleagues have been moving around the village talking with neighbors about the need for good hygiene and sanitation, and have helped community members to install hand washing facilities (also known as tippy taps), dig rubbish pits, put up plate stands, and, above all, improving or constructing latrines. In fact, Catherine reported to UVP staff recently that since June, 30 tippy taps have been constructed. More importantly, she notes that she has strengthened her relationships with her community members.

Despite the fact that VHT work is voluntary, Catherine is proud of the respect that comes with her title, and enjoys her new nickname, “Musawo”, or person with health knowledge. She is constantly consulted on health-related problems and she has been in the position to guide community members and also refer them to the health center for further assistance. Catherine is proud to work with UVP; through the training provided, she has acquired more skills and knowledge related to the health problems in her home and she shares her experience with her neighbors.  

Want to help us continue to support Catherine and other VHTs in Muira? Make a contribution and specify the WASH program. And follow us on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook to see your UVP family in action in the villages. Catherine's story has been used with her permission.