August 8, 2011 | | Leave a Comment
Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned a lot about the biggest health challenges in Kashongi. Helen and I have conducted child health focus groups and interviews with community members, health workers and officials, and traditional healers. It has been really interesting to see the different health issues from completely different perspectives. From the community members, we have learned that the most prevalent diseases for children are malaria and diarrheal disease. While the women, who are the main caretakers of children, know to seek care from a health center, they consistently reported that the distance is too far and transportation is not available. This has contributed to their continued patronage of traditional healers for treatment. When they do make it to a health center, they are often referred to a higher health center (e.g. a hospital) because the lower health centers do not have the proper supplies or equipment to treat many diseases. Another primary concern for the women is that many health centers have no way to diagnose malaria other than symptomatically, so they distribute antimalarials for a wide range of symptoms that are not always malaria. This lack of close and accurate diagnosis, lack of supplies and difficulty finding transportation has decreased their willingness to seek care from health centers.
Our conversations with health workers and officials showed the other side of the story. The health centers receive supplies from the government every three months, although in the recent past they have gone an entire year without receiving any supplies. These supplies consist of whatever the government decides that they need, regardless of what the health center requests. They run out of many of the medications in under a month. Because of the lack of supplies, it is incredibly hard to encourage the community members to seek care from the health centers. When they go to seek care and they cannot be treated, they are unlikely to return. There are several health education initiatives in place, mostly centered at Kashongi Health Center III, though there are some outreaches to the villages. They hope that this will encourage seeking care from health centers and the proper preventative practices.
Outside of work, we have been keeping ourselves quite busy. On July 25th, we attended “Christmas” at Becky’s church. The church was strewn with red and green cloth, complete with a decorated Christmas tree on stage. To celebrate, we sang Christmas carols and had the most delicious Ugandan food we’ve eaten to date.
This past Saturday, we went Chimpanzee tracking at Kalinzu Forest Reserve. It was really fun, even though we had to wake up at 5 to get there in time to see the Chimps. We split up into two groups. My group saw a red-tailed monkey, black and white colobi, and L’hoest monkeys. At the very end, after hiking for over four hours, we finally got to see the chimps. It was amazing. Being in Uganda is quite the adventure!