Monday, 18 August 2014

UDHA Makes Impressive Strides in the Promotion of Maternal and Child Health Rights in Mayuge District

Up to forty (40) years no one among the fishing community on Saguti, Masolya and Jaguzi Islands in Mayuge district had ever been immunised. There was generally a very low uptake of immunization services and low attendance/utilization of other health services like antenatal and family planning. With only three (3) Health Centres built and ill equipped to serve seven (7) islands, limited use and access to health services was the lifestyle of most fishing communities. Apparently no ambulance could work in these places, while health workers too shunned staying on the island. And as a result, mothers relied heavily on the expertise of the traditional birth attendants (TBAs) while the rest lived by self medication and God’s mercy” thus revealed  Michael Gwanjaye, the Project Coordinator of Uganda Development and Health Associates–(UDHA). 

UDHA is an IDF grantee promoting maternal and child health rights among the fishing communities in Mayuge district.
 In collaboration with several stakeholders; District health office, facility medical personnel, Village Health Teams (VHTs), mothers, political and civil leaders, UDHA has been able to reach over 7796 people in the sub counties/islands of Bukaboli, Jaguza and Malongo with information on maternal and child health rights. This has been through routine radio talk shows, radio jingles community sensitization out reaches, door to door sensitization campaigns, quarterly feedback and sensitization meetings with key stakeholders, community dialogue meetings with duty bearers, publication and dissemination of Information Education and Communication (I.E.C) materials in popular versions.

Aimed at increasing the level of involvement of fishing communities in planning, monitoring, and utilization of maternal and child healthcare services, UDHA’s project seems to be making progressive strides towards this goal. Available reports from these interventions and interaction with key stakeholders confirm this; For instance through continued lobbying and advocacy for the improvement of health services at Bwondha HC II, the longtime dilapidated HC was renovated by the district and supplied with a solar panel (that will be installed soon). This has not only improved its look but also attracted more mothers to utilize its services. Umuteesi Safina, the HC In-Charge notes that “in the past we would receive 10-15 mothers monthly while the rest used TBAS. It was even hard to convince them to come to the HC because it was in a poor state, but after its renovation realized through UDHA’s advocacy,  coupled with the continued sensitization, we now receive 28 – 30 mothers monthly, we hope to even get more in the near future”.

An increase in the number of people accessing immunization has also been witnessed; whereas the HC conducts immunization outreach services, mothers who deliver from home or on the way have come up to later bring their babies for immunization. Umuteesi further reveals that “since UDHA’s sensitization and education campaigns, the HC now immunizes between 150-200 babies monthly. These include those who deliver at the HC and from home - they after delivery bring the new born babies to the HC for immunization because they have been made to understand its importance”.

Related to this is the improvement in utilization of family planning services; Available records at  Bwondha HC II show an increase in the number of people accessing family planning from 10-20 people to 50- 150 monthly. On the other hand, male support towards women and child health rights has increased; unlike in the past when men did not find it necessary to participate in health related activities for their wives and children, say escorting them  for antenatal, today, more men have come up to support their wives. At Bwondha HC for instance, over 30 couples are registered monthly for antenatal services as opposed to the past when only 7-10 couples would be received.
Other impressive results from UDHA’s advocacy work are the recruitment and retention of Health workers at the HCs on the islands by the district, appointment of new Health Unit management committees to replace the expired and non functional committees at most of the HCs in the district and orienting of the same on their roles and responsibilities.

Lastly is securing commitment from the District Health Officer to upgrade Bwondha HC II to a HC III facility.  “A lot of change is being witnessed from UDHA’s work; we have been involved in most of the activities and are able to track what is changing. We are impressed by their work, and collaboration with us as a district and the other relevant stakeholders. Certainly the lives of mothers and children in Mayuge district are improving greatly”, noted the District Health educator, Mayuge district during an interview with him about the UDHA-IDF funded project.