KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
On Friday, June 28, 2013 – Seven university students, four Ugandan, two Canadian, wrapped up a four-week work placement with KIHEFO in Kabale, Uganda. The team of students were representing Mbarara University (MUST), Mulago University, and the University of Saskatchewan in a pilot-project of a unique partnership between MUST and KIHEFO. To conclude their work in Kabale, students prepared a presentation for all KIHEFO staff to share about their experiences and results.
Community Placement Program for Students
Students, all from different faculties of study, including medicine, nutrition, nursing, pharmacy, laboratory and even veterinarian sciences, had been teamed together by Mbarara University to participate in a Community Placement program in Kabale.
The Community Placement program is a leadership program for students to gain practical experiences working in rural community health. The program challenges a team of students to visit with communities, consult with local healthcare organizations (like KIHEFO) and to identify challenges, while collectively developing an action plan to address public health issues.
Learning Day to Day with KIHEFO
Throughout the four-week program, the students were assigned to responsibilities and learning at KIHEFO’s various health institutions, including the Kigongi General Clinic, the Lab, the Nutrition & Rehabilitation Centre, and the In-Patient/Out-Patient Clinic.
Adam Bentley, a Veterinarian student at the University of Saskatchewan, also had the opportunity to assist with KIHEFO’s Rabbit Breeding & Training Centre, by participating in a field out-reach to a rabbit farmer’s site, and compiling resources on rabbit hutch design, feeding, and disease prevention.
The majority of the students’ work; however, was a group project, focused on facilitating a Health Assessment and Action Plan in rural Kabale. Students chose to base their project in the nearby area of Muyumbu, and the village of Nyakiju, to conduct home-visits, distribute questionnaires and determine what was the most pressing health concern amongst residents.
Prioritizing the Health Challenges – What Students Discovered
Students split into two teams, and through the support/translation of KIHEFO’s staff, they hiked the steep hills in Nyakiju and visited a total of 27 homes in the village. The students prepared questionnaires, interview questions, and recorded observations from viewing the family’s homes – including notes on the sanitation of latrines and food preparation areas. Based on the research with 27-households, the students were able to collect data across various themes, and were able to prioritize health issues. Through an analysis of the results, they ranked issues, according to percentages of people suffering:
Malaria – 15%
HIV/AIDS – 8.3 %
Malnutrition (Children 5 years and younger) – 63%
Heart Disease – 13.7 %
The numbers spoke volumes, which influenced the students in their decision to develop an action-plan to address ‘Child Malnutrition’ in Nyakiju, Muyumbu.
Students in Action – Outreach, Training & Radio Air-Waves
The team returned to Nyakiju multiple times over the following two weeks. They conducted further research by re-visiting homes, and interviewing mothers/caretakers about nutrition – to gauge what was the knowledge level of caretakers of foods and their nutritional importance.
From this research, they found that of 27 mothers, only 7 mothers had knowledge of what foods they needed to feed their children for proper growth and development (only 26% of the sample).
This information motivated the team of students to address problems surrounding Child Malnutrition through a number of Action-Plan Outreaches in Nyakiju:
Þ Organizing a 1-day Nutrition Outreach Assessment in Nyakiju, where they measured weight, height, and arm circumference of children under five. They used the World Health Organization’s Body Mass Index (weight over height, squared) to determine nutrition levels. The results where that from 71 children, 46 ranked in the third percentile of being underweight/undernourished.
Þ Providing information on nutrition (types of food for protein, energy, etc.) to a team of health care promoters in Nyakiju.
Þ Participating in a 2-hour community radio program focusing on nutrition, in conjunction with Radio Hope.
Þ Sharing information with mothers/caretakers of 27-households in Nyakiju.
Reflection on Lessons Learned with KIHEFO
At their presentation to KIHEFO staff on the morning of June 28th, the team of students each presented an aspect of their collective learning project, while also offering insight on what they learned as individuals.
“I was surprised by the number of malnourished children [in Nyakiju],” expressed Nanvuma Aidah, a nursing student from Mbarara University. “I thought Kabale was an area rich in farming.”
“It’s not food that’s lacking [in Nyakiju],” Mulagi Robert, a Lab-Technician student at Mulago University, commented. “It’s knowledge that is lacking…they have good soils here [for growing food]…but are lacking information. For example, goats [in Nyakiju] are typically sold for money and not consumption [feeding their children].”
Despite the challenges, the team of students were hopeful that, with the proper education and rural outreach, health issues could be addressed in Nyakiju, and beyond.
“I believe malnutrition can be eliminated in Kabale,” said Muyama Sandra, a medical student at Mbrara University, with a smile. She added, speaking on behalf of the team of seven students, “We are grateful for everyone at KIHEFO who made our stay so welcoming and productive.”
KIHEFO is also grateful to the team of students for their hard work, dedication and enthusiasm working in Kabale for 4-weeks. Thanks to – Mulagi Robert, Nanvuma Aidah, Adam Bentley, Daniel Kafeero, Awino Mariam, Muyuma Sandra and Nikki Janzen.
For more information on how you can volunteer for KIHEFO, or become involved in Community-Based Research, please visit our website – click here.