Thursday, May 30, 2019

Your Feedback has Profound Value

Your Feedback has Profound Value

We eat, sleep, and breathe UVP. We know what programs look like on the ground and the names of all the VHTs. We see the same faces when we go to the village and we have relationships with staff members at all the local health centers and the Iganga District offices. We’re embracing UVP all the time, so there are things we take for granted, things we intrinsically know because of our intimacy with the work. It’s called the curse of knowledge – once you learn something, it’s hard to remember how it feels to not know.

The survey that many of you took last month helped to illuminate ways we could talk out the work of UVP, the work you support, to promote better understanding of what exactly is going on in villages in Iganga. Here’s a couple tidbits we received from you.

Yes, you got all the questions right! If you ticked the box indicating that trachoma education is one of UVP’s programs, that tells us that we need to do a better job at highlighting program changes (we used to implement trachoma awareness programming, but began focusing on our other programs in 2009).

Most respondents to the survey know that UVP provides education in clean water (83%) and sanitation & hygiene (77%) and clean water access (75%). What surprised us is that most people don’t know that, in addition to malaria education, we provide malaria testing and treatment (only 35% knew this). And while many people (68%) know UVP provides HIV education, less than half (47%) know that HIV testing and counseling coincide with that education.

We learned that the term ‘public health’ is ambiguous and broad – it can mean many different things to many different people. The largest majority of people categorized it as required, useful, or necessary (23%), followed by a community concern (17%), and finally as general health or non-descript health terms (15%). We could do a better job at painting a picture of what public health means, particularly in rural Ugandan villages.

We also learned that it is difficult to determine what UVP is directly responsible for due to our close ties with other organizations. So, our job is to better communicate those things to you! While we’re making adjustments in our communication, feel free to reach out to us if there is something that you really like, something you learned, or even something that left a bad taste in your mouth (something you didn’t like). Please be gentle, we really do take your comments to heart!

And finally, a heartfelt thank you! Because you took the time to provide us with your input, we can provide better education about what public health looks like and the real impacts it has to rural communities in Iganga.

Kelly Child
Executive Director

Now the Baby is Not Just Her Responsibility

by Maria Gorret Nampiima, VHT Program Coordinator

Sometimes, health education requires tenacity and creativity.

I met Sarah in Ituba A while the VHTs and I were conducting house-to-house visits focusing on reproductive health education. Because of the sensitive nature of reproductive health, these visits are different than our outreaches; community members feel more comfortable to share their personal stories and ask detailed questions. Sarah was no exception.

At five months pregnant, we were astonished to learn that Sarah had not gone for antenatal care yet. It can be easy to make a community member feel ashamed and guilty, so we kept our surprise reactions to minimum; after all, Sarah isn’t the only one responsible for seeking antenatal care. She expressed to us that she knew she needed to go and was worried – she had experienced birth defects in previous pregnancies and wanted to check on this baby, but didn’t have the funds to transport herself to the health center.

Sarah shared her challenge in seeking antenatal care with the VHTs during our visit, and after some discussion, she asked for the VHTs help to encourage her husband to better support her health care in pregnancy.  Although family counseling is not typically a role VHTs embody, they were supportive of her request and our next stop was the trading center.

Upon arrival, the VHTs quickly located Sarah's husband and, after greeting him, asked several questions about his wife’s health. As the VHTs discussed with him the importance of antenatal visits, his face changed from confusion to determination. Since he had not been to any of UVP’s reproductive health outreaches for men because he works outside of the village during the day, he wasn’t aware of the importance of antenatal visits. As the education provided by the VHTs sank in, he became more understanding and accepting of his role in the pregnancy part of raising his child.

Fast forward two weeks: we’re back in Ituba A and visit the trading center again, looking for Sarah’s husband. The moment he sees us, he smiles widely. He is happy to report that Sarah has been to the health center for an antenatal visit and she and the baby are doing fine and growing well. He is proud of his healthy family, and we left him at the trading center sharing his story with his friends.

It’s amazing what a little education can do!

Education and access are a powerful team! Learn more about this influential program and ways you can support life changing education by visiting our websiteWe are sharing Sarah's story with her permission; her husband has asked to remain anonymous.

“I Pondered on Taking Poison”

by Loy Tumusiime, Reproductive Health Program Coordinator

After almost two hours, Jamira realized that labor had started, but her husband and other family encouraged her to wait until morning to go to the health center. After all, these things can take time.

In addition to the family’s influence, “it was the long distance [to the health center] that kept me from seeking treatment early,” Jamira remembers. Unfortunately, the baby did not survive. Upon discharge from the hospital, Jamira went to her grandmother’s home; Jamira did not want to go back to her husband until she figured out why she was uncontrollably leaking urine. After one month, her grandmother couldn’t take the smell and built Jamira a shack made from banana leaves behind the house. In addition to being isolated, Jamira was in pain. “I pondered on taking poison,” Jamira says as she recalls those dark days 12 years ago.

Jamira’s first flicker of hope happened when her sister-in-law heard one of UVP’s Fistula Ambassadors giving an educational talk at the nearby health center. It wasn’t until Jamira reached Kamuli Mission Hospital and saw all the other women in the same condition that she embraced that hopeful feeling. “Fistula is a treatable and preventable disease, but when you are out there you can’t know that.” Living in a rural area limits the education that women are exposed to, making UVP health outreaches by staff and Fistula Ambassadors some of the only education women receive.“When urine flows, it washes away all the brain and stops you from thinking abroad,” she says.

Despite being shunned for 12 years, Jamira’s spirits are high as she readies herself to leave the hospital to participate in UVP’s reintegration program where she will learn a trade and continue to heal in a supportive environment.

A fistula patient today becomes the Fistula Ambassador of tomorrow. One woman at a time, UVP’s Fistula Ambassadors find those who have been neglected for years, suffering in silence - women like Jamira.

You can support our Fistula Ambassadors to reach women like Jamira with life-changing treatment by making a contribution today! We are sharing Jamira’s story with her permission.