Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hatika Namyalo: inspired by fistula surgeries

April 5 – 11 is International Health Worker Week. Every day, dedicated health workers around the world spend long hours—often for very little payto keep their communities healthy. For the next week, UVP will be highlighting a few of the health workers we partner with who ensure good health for all Ugandans.

By Kait Maloney, UVP Managing Director

Hatika Namyalo is trained nurse and current medical student in Uganda who has a vision to help poor and marginalized women in her country. Her passion for medical work was sparked during a church mission trip in 2007 to the eastern region of Karamoja in Uganda, an isolated area with a semi-nomadic population. She saw children dying of pneumonia and women dying in childbirth without access to the critical services they needed. Hatika knew that she belonged in the medical field.

She completed a course in nursing and then began her medical course. During this time she heard about Uganda Village Project (UVP) and our fistula program. Fistula is a childbirth injury that leaves the mother leaking urine or feces uncontrollably; UVP identifies women with the condition and sends them for repair surgery. The surgeries are done by the UK Childbirth Injuries Fund, but UVP helps the surgeons by identifying a local medical student who can assist them during the camps. Hatika began working with UVP in 2012, and while witnessing her first fistula repair she knew that she wanted to specialize as a gynecological surgeon. “There are so many ways medical professionals can intervene to stop fistulas from ever happening: good prenatal care for the mothers, safe deliveries with qualified midwives, and access to quality emergency obstetric care,” she said, acknowledging that medical care for fistula involves not just surgery but also holistic maternal health care.

Being a health worker in Uganda is not without its challenges. Hatika mentioned that low salaries and under-resourced hospitals are the two main challenges she sees for health workers here. However, when asked why she still wants to pursue a medical career even when she knows the challenges, she replied, “The smile you see on a fistula survivor’s face when they are able to sit with others without leaking and talk about their experience is worth all of the challenges.” Hatika has a bright future in caring for the mothers of Uganda. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Reproductive Health Month

By: Orrin Tiberi, Global Heatlh Corps Fellow

Last month the world celebrated reproductive health, praising and upholding women and their vital role in the perpetuation of humankind.  This year, 2015, is especially important for reflection and festivities. The Millennium Development Goals are set to expire and a new set of goals, the Sustainable Development Goals, will be adopted in September of this year.  

Looking back on the past 15 years, reproductive health has made leaps and bounds in many areas. Ante-natal care, for example, has increased from 65 percent in 1990 to 83 percent in 2012. The need for contraception has decreased as well, though an estimated 222 million women worldwide still lack access and the necessary education to make family planning decisions according to the World Health Organization. Nowhere is the need for contraception education and services more important than Uganda, where many rural communities do not receive family planning services or education in a consistent, comprehensive way.   Uganda Village Project works to fill that gap by providing family planning outreach session four times a year in each of the current Healthy Villages.  I was able to observe one of these sessions and see the incredible impact that giving women education and services can have.

I traveled with UVP staff member Maureen, a nurse from St. Mary’s Clinic, and the other Global Health Corps fellow Julius to Kazigo A, one of the Healthy Villages in its third year.  We arrived an hour later than planned, but the groups of women that I expected to see waiting were conspicuously absent. They soon started to come in small groups, often shy and reserved, and served as a great reminder to myself and Julius that even though we may be completely comfortable with the idea of family planning and contraception access, much of the world is still not.  Maureen and Robert severd as the best of hosts, and soon each of the women who had come for education or services was put at ease.  A few women were first time visitors for the outreach, and after an extensive counseling session each of them was given a pregnancy test and after a confirmed negative were offered the option for the contraceptive method of their choice.  Kazigo A has approximately 250 households, and over the course of the day an estimated 50 women came for education and services. Though this seems like a small number at first glance, it represents a sizeable portion of the community and could mean that 50 families will not struggle to feed, clothe, or education another child.  That alone makes even one patient valuable.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Monthly donors make a difference!

Alanta Colley is special to Uganda Village Project (UVP) for several reasons. First, she was the Healthy Villages Coordinator years ago, and we’re always proud of the dedicated staff members who have been with us in Iganga. And second, Alanta is one of our amazing monthly donors. UVP is so grateful to the partners who give each month: because of them, we have a source of funds we know we can depend on, and thanks to their support we can run programs throughout the year. Every time we see Alanta's donation come through, we smile, because she dedicates it "to the wonderful UVP staff," and it inspires us to keep working on behalf of rural villages in Iganga.

We caught up with Alanta to see what she’s been doing since her time in Uganda and why she’s committed to giving monthly to UVP.

How did you originally get involved with UVP?
I ended up in Uganda after completing my Masters of International Public Health at the University of Sydney, in Australia. (I'm Australian!) Uganda is very, very far away from Australia. I had wanted to go to Uganda for years, as several of the amazing doctors and nurses in my uni course were Ugandan, I was fascinated by the history of HIV incidence reduction in the country, and I had read it is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world! I started volunteering in a small village clinic in Ibulanku, traipsing through the fields to do sanitation education with communities. This was the first time I heard of Uganda Village Project. 

Julius Ntalo (UVP Fistula Coordinator) and Leah Bevis (UVP Healthy Villages Coordinator) visited the clinic sometimes, and I soon got to meet them, discovering them both to be passionate, intelligent, hard working people dedicated to doing everything they could to support the communities across Iganga district. I was very inspired by both of them. I then moved on to work in an even tinier village in Kenya, Leah called me to tell me that she was leaving UVP, and that they were looking for a new Healthy Villages Coordinator. I still remember the interview over Skype conducted by Alison Hayward, co-founder of UVP and current Chair of the Board, after she had just come off a 48 hour shift on emergency medicine. There are few times I've ever been so nervous; UVP was thoroughly wonderful and I wanted very much to be a part of it. As soon as we got talking Alison put my mind at ease. 

What's your best memory of Iganga?
The villages in Iganga are beautiful. I don't have a single favourite memory, but I loved the culture that whenever you were driving somewhere and it started raining, you would drop whatever you were doing and go sit on the porch or in the living room of the most nearby house. The sense of trust and hospitality is something my community in Australia lacks. I loved being part of community celebrations, I love the Igangan culture of meetings where everyone gets a say. 

My least favourite memory of Iganga was running along the train tracks (one of the few places one can run) to discover a train had offloaded several thousand syringe heads on the tracks. It did give me an incentive to keep light on my toes though!

What has kept you involved?
The work of UVP is evidence based, tangible, practical, and based on priorities devised by the community. I've seen first-hand how passionately committed all the staff and volunteers are, and how well money is used. I think UVP supports communities to have the stable access to health information and services to provide a platform to realize their greater aspirations. 

What motivated you to give a monthly donation?
UVP is focused on making the most of every precious dollar it receives. UVP is very clever in utilizing existing resources, and sustainable appropriate materials. For example the shallow well program used the materials the District has already purchased and could be fixed by community members, unlike the expensive bore holes built by other INGOs that community can't fix. The materials we used in the sanitation campaigns to make tippy taps were extremely cheap, and could be replaced easily by community members. Salaries are the biggest cost often for UVP, but only because of how cleverly inexpensive all the other costs UVP incurs are managed. I have no doubt that in terms of positive impact for Ugandan people in Iganga, donating to UVP enables me to get the best 'bang for buck'. 

Can you share a little information about yourself?
I'm Alanta, I'm Australian, and I'm 32. Since working for UVP I've returned home to work with Engineers Without Borders, coordinating a program supporting Aboriginal communities and engineering organisations to work collaboratively. I love cycling, comedy and gardening.  I love Uganda Village Project and always will :-)