USAID

Video that highlights the work of thousands of Tanzanians---mostly women---working as accredited community drug sellers operating in rural areas.Video that highlights the work of thousands of Tanzanians---mostly women---working as accredited community drug sellers operating in rural areas.

Today is International Women’s Day, celebrated around the world as an opportunity to look back on women’s accomplishments and look forward to the realization of their full economic, political, and social rights. The United Nations theme for this year, “Empowering Rural Women,” is one that resonates powerfully with MSH’s work.

A midwife in Wau, South Sudan. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Josephine, a wife and mother of six living in rural Uganda, tried to soothe her 3-year-old daughter. The girl was suffering from diarrhea and a high fever and her crying filled the home. Recognizing that the girl's health was in danger, Josephine summoned the courage to ask her husband for permission to take their second-youngest child to the local health facility unit -- and pleaded for money to cover the travel and treatment expenses.

Requesting permission from her husband to travel to the facility was not her only choice, however: choosing to take her daughter for treatment also meant leaving her other children -- including her youngest -- unattended at home. Once at the health center, she continued to navigate the challenging road to treatment for her daughter, communicating her situation to the health providers and negotiating the financial and provider aspects of the health center system, without assistance. Relieved and exhausted, Josephine returned home safely with her daughter, oral rehydration salts, and knowledge.

Recognizing women leaders

What makes a person in the health system a good leader? Who determines that he or she is a leader? How do we empower leaders to improve the health of those around them?

Mbambu, a midwife at a western Ugandan health center. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Mbambu is a midwife who works at Isole Health Center III in rural Western Uganda. When I had the opportunity to visit with her, she was the only health care provider at the center. Trained as a midwife nine years ago, her passion for her job pours out of her. Since primary school, becoming a midwife "was always my mission,” she said.

A little over a year ago, Mbambu was trained in family planning and reproductive health skills by STRIDES for Family Health, a USAID-funded program in Uganda led by MSH. Prior to the training, the health center could only offer education and basic family planning services.

Now Mbambu educates women who are waiting to have their children immunized or receive antenatal treatment about family planning, healthy spacing and timing of pregnancies, and the benefits of delivering at a health center. Her new skills also empower her to administer basic and long-term family planning services.

Mbambu shared a compelling story that I promised I would share with others:

Lelo PHCU staff treat the young patient. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

"Diktor! Diktor!" The urgent call for a doctor came from several school boys who had run to the facility. I glanced over and saw a boy about 12 years old tensely sit down in the waiting patio at Lelo Primary Health Care Unit in South Sudan.

Women learning about family planning at Bikone Health Center II, Western Uganda. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

This was my first trip to Africa working with a development agency. While I had visited the African continent for personal trips previously, arriving in this context felt different. I was immediately aware of the challenges Uganda is facing. From the crumbling road infrastructure and high incidence of traffic accidents in Kampala, to the mobile phone networks that are pretty reliable while internet access is often spotty, to the prevalence of street children --- I can for the first time see what my local colleagues are up against.

I felt a bit overwhelmed in the first few days. Is there any way we can address all these challenges? Can we make a difference?

Visiting communities and health centers in Kampala, Eastern and Western Uganda -- and seeing first-hand the impact MSH is having across the country -- quickly re-inspired me.

I had the pleasure of meeting a particularly passionate and committed Clinical Officer, Rodger Rwehandika, at Bikone Health Center II in Western Uganda. As a health center II, Bikone is an outpatient facility, but the staff of the facility can also conduct outreach programs to educate and serve the community.

Rodger and his two staff facilitate health education programs at the local schools and also host youth-friendly programs on using condoms.

"Are family planning methods safe?” wondered Mutombo, a community health worker at the Kawama Village Health Center, in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Katanga Province. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Cross-posted on USAID's IMPACT blog.

“Don’t they contain a poison?” he added, directing his question to Isaac Chishesa, a community mobilization specialist with USAID’s Democratic Republic of Congo-Integrated Health Project (DRC-IHP).

Tough question! One Isaac was not expecting, at least not within a discussion among trained community health workers.

An experienced community health professional, Isaac responded with a smile and said, “Thank you, my friend, for sharing your concern,” affirming the participants’ right to ask questions. “Family planning methods are safe,” he reassured the group. “Based on international quality standards, each method is required to go through extensive testing before it is made available to the public.”

The faces of Mutombo and his peers lit up. They sighed, a collective sigh of relief, and burst out laughing to relieve some of the tension. They all recognized that even though they were dedicated to bringing about improvements in health behaviors, they, like most of their fellow community members, harbored misconceptions and rumors about family planning.

Inside Story: The Science of HIV/AIDSInside Story: The Science of HIV/AIDS

Kalu, a young man from Kenya, dreamed of becoming a star footballer (soccer player). Little did he know when he traveled to South Africa to pursue his dream that he carried in him a hidden passenger: the HIV virus. And little did he know that his forbidden romance with Ify, the coach’s daughter, would spread the virus, infecting her with HIV.

Presented by Discovery Channel Global Education Partnerships (DCGEP) and produced by Curious Pictures, Inside Story: The Science of HIV/AIDS is a modern tale of young love with false accusations, heartbreak and ultimately reconciliation. Inside Story is an African sports drama, with team rivalries, individual jealousies and xenophobia. In its most creative dimension, Inside Story is a masterful and pioneering AIDS education vehicle with sophisticated animated clips that show the science of HIV including the virus infecting cells.

Norah Nakato (right) receiving care from Fausta Nalukwago, midwife at Mpigi Health Center IV in Uganda. {Photo credit: MSH}Photo credit: MSH

Norah, a 21-year-old teacher at a private school in Nansana, Uganda, did not know she was pregnant. Pain in her lower abdomen prompted her to go for a consultation at a private clinic in Nansana, where a urine test revealed the pregnancy. “I was shocked because I had last had my period on the 15th of that month,” Norah said.

At the clinic, Norah was given an antibiotic and a pain killer to relieve abdominal pain. Norah left the clinic excited about her pregnancy. But, two weeks later, the pain persisted and Norah began bleeding. Her mother advised her to go to Mpigi Health Center IV for an ultrasound.

At the health center, Norah saw a problem on the ultrasound screen. “The doctor showed me what was in my uterus and there was no baby," Norah said. "It was swollen with liquid and unclear substances. He said the substance had to be removed. I was very scared."

After counseling from the doctor, Norah was admitted and given medication to induce labor. When the contractions began, she was taken into surgery.

The doctor advised her to wait at least one and a half years before conceiving another child to allow time for her uterus to heal and the abnormal hormone levels to normalize.

Mildred Akinyi sitting by a family planning unit in Masafu sub-county, Uganda. Photo: MSH.

 

Post updated February 2, 2012.

Mildred Akinyi had abdominal pain for some time before she attended a reproductive health workshop for HIV positive couples at Masafu Hospital in Uganda in July 2011.

“I always felt pain in my abdomen, and would take a lot of panadols to ease the pain. I did not know what was wrong with me," Akinyi said. "When I heard from the case manager at Masafu hospital that STAR-E had organized for women living with HIV and their partners to be screened for cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), I could not wait to use that chance to get checked.”

Members of the Heteka Support group with the BLC-NANASO team after the CSO mapping and capacity assessment interview was completed. Photo credit: MSH

Namibia, with just 2.2 million people, has one of the highest AIDS prevalence rates in the world, at roughly 13.1 percent. The country’s small population is spread over a large geographic area, making the delivery of AIDS services a challenge especially in remote villages. Civil society organizations (CSOs) play a large role in the AIDS response here, but often have few staff, limited resources, and are not formally recognized by the Namibian government, which makes it harder for them to advocate for resources.

Pages

Printer Friendly Version
Subscribe to RSS - USAID