KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
On Tuesday, April 22nd, KIHEFO’s community ambulance – packed with nursing staff, social workers, HIV counselors, a laboratory assistant and boxes filled with drugs and medications – navigated the rocky road that led to the village of Rubira.
It was the launch of a new exciting community partnership between KIHEFO, Child Family Health International (CFHI) and a community health group in Rubira, with the collaborative goal to improve access to basic healthcare services for a community of 200 families.
The outreaches are funded by both KIHEFO and CFHI, providing healthcare services to the community and also giving CFHI students the opportunity to gain first-hand experiences and exposure in a rural healthcare setting in southwestern Uganda.
History of Rubira’s Health Centre II
Deputy chairwoman of the Rubira community health committee recently contacted KIHEFO to initiate the project. Her community group manages a Health Centre II – a small clinic, equipped with two rooms for seeing patients and a basic pharmacy – in Rubira.
While the facility offers a clean, safe space for patients and health professionals, the real challenge has been retaining health professionals in rural locations. This is a difficulty facing rural communities throughout Uganda. Many health professionals, including nurses, midwives and medical officers, struggle with the poor living conditions and isolation. Many more eventually abandon their posts in Health Centre IIs and seek work in the cities.
Rubira’s Health Centre was built in 2005, though due to the instability of the in-charges and nurses, and an inconsistent availability of drugs and medicines – the project became unsustainable. For community members, that meant they’d be forced to travel to a Health Centre III in the Kynamira Parish – a health facility over 5 km away. As most people travel on foot, or bicycle – 5 km is a long way to go, especially when dealing with sickness.
After approaching KIHEFO, the two community groups brainstormed and came up with a realistic solution to the lack of healthcare services in Rubira.
KIHEFO would staff nurses and laboratory support at the Rubira Health Centre II on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of every week.
KIHEFO’s Approach to Supporting Community Health
This wouldn’t be the first time KIHEFO had supported community efforts in Rubira. In 2007, KIHEFO began working with a group of women in Rubira to provide public health information on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and to invest in a small saving’s group. Community members, deemed most at-risk by their group, were given goats, seedlings and agricultural tools/equipment.
“We had been working with the group,” Dr. Anguyo, Executive Director of KIHEFO, explained, “but now we want to take these services to the wider community.”
The project goal is to work collaboratively with Rubira’s community health committee to identify institutions, including schools and women’s groups, to improve access not only to healthcare, but also to education, agricultural training and social development.
CFHI Students Visit Rubira Primary School
The first medical students of the Child Family Health Program, Katherine Crabtree and Christina Kinnevey had the opportunity to visit Rubira Primary School and participate in a hygiene/sanitation presentation for students.
Gertrude Atuhirwe, a midwife working with KIHEFO, facilitated a discussion with students about how to prevent contracting parasites and worms.
“Don’t eat raw foods…wash your hands…don’t drink water that hasn’t been boiled,” – these were some of the ideas from primary school students.
KIHEFO gave albendazole (anti-parasitic medication) to the children to treat round worms and hook worms, and reminded them that they’d return in three month’s time to deliver more medication.
CFHI students will return to Rubira Primary School in several weeks to help students plan and built a school garden for improving agricultural skills and nutrition.
First Day at the Health Centre II
On their first day of the community health partnership, KIHEFO’s team provided services to over forty patients at Rubira’s Health Centre II.
“You can imagine,” exclaimed Dr. Anguyo, “that in one month’s time the health clinic would typically see only forty patients. And now we’ve accomplished that in only one day!”
CFHI participants, Katherine and Christina (both 4th year medical students), saw patients and consulted with Dr. Anguyo about diagnosis and available treatments.
The CFHI program will continue to send students to work at Rubira’s Health Centre II, and help KIHEFO’s medical team to offer sustainable services to the community.
Dr. Anguyo is eager to track and measure the impact of this unique community partnership between KIHEFO, Rubira community and CFHI over the coming years. Community members from Rubira who received healthcare attention and services at the Health Centre expressed their enormous gratitude to the partnership between KIHEFO and CFHI.
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