KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
Ajia Sub-County in Vurra County has the highest population in the whole of Arua District. Late August Last year, we set off for a survey on the
causes of the high mortality rate in Ayaa and Aya Yia, and most was attributed to malnutrition, teenage pregnancies and lack of access to medical care. 13 villages in the sub-county share one health centre, AyaYia Health Centre II, that is always filled to maximum. Just like in any area in Uganda, the highest population are the poor who live below the poverty line, that is less than a dollar a day to be precise.
In Ayaa, very many polygamous families have emerged as is the tradition in the area. One man is seen owning a homestead of three grass thatched houses with three wives and 27 children. This has made life hard on his side as looking after the families is seeming to be harder than he thought. The young children are malnourished and nothing is being done to help
them grow healthy. What we call a decent meal or balanced diet as you may call it, has never crossed their minds. When asked about what is on their plate, they said it was raw cassava for breakfast; jackfruit for lunch and “kalo” (local food) and eggplants for dinner. This cycle is endless as just a few amendments are made. Just like in other families, Some of the girls aged 15 in the homestead are already breastfeeding mothers showing an increase in teenage pregnancies. The nearest school from the trading centre is 24kms and the next health unit is Kuluva Hospital which is 47km away.
Many people walk as far as 30 – 40 kilometres across forests and bridges to access medication at Aya Yia Health Centre II. Most of these people in villages cannot afford drugs and the health centre has a labor ward that is inactive and not equipped, and from the looks, it had not been used for a long time. Pregnant mothers stand the risk of no attention as the place looks abandoned and according to the Local Council Chairperson, many women had lost lives during giving birth because there were no midwives to attend to them.
The Executive Director KIHEFO, Dr. Geoffrey Anguyo, suggested a plan of holding a health camp in the area and give back to the community, a model adopted in the Kabale Medical Camps. Through this camp, people would receive free medication, be scanned (ultra scan) and counselling the youth to stay in school and avoid early teenage pregnancies which led to abortion. On the 28th-December-2015, we set off at around 7:27 am from Arua town to Ayaa Yia. We found a long cue of patients who were waiting in lines for treatment. Some had travelled the day before and spent a night at the verandas of the health centre.
There were various doctors who volunteered to participate in the camps and were already dealing with some cases. Ushers from Ndrivu Community Development Association (NVIDA) were helping to guide the patients and doing the registration. they also prepared breakfast and lunch for the volunteers and some patients. We anticipated like 600 patients per day but on day one, we had a staggering 1,132 patients. This did not intimidate the focused doctors who offered to work on some and the remainder be dealt with the next day. People came with diseases that are as old as four years and two years, enduring the pain but with no solution. Most of them could barely walk and were with walking sticks at the ages of thirty. They received the treatment and medication that they were supposed to get.
Very many people still do not have access to medical care and health facilities in many parts of Uganda. They chose to be who and what they are not because they want but because the circumstances dictate. The turn up was good and we thank those that helped spread the message to the population. For those that dedicated and sacrificed a little of their time to serve the community, many lives were saved and transformed. To the Ajia Community, we are forever grateful that you responded positively to our call. We are so pleased you could join us on our special day and thank you for coming and sharing this special time with us. To the local Aya Yia Community, We hope you know that our day was more special because you were there with us though not medically but resource wise. If more services could be mobilised and brought to such communities, you and me can indeed make Uganda a better place.
Malagala Abdallah Hakim.