Africa

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.

Blog post updated Dec. 28, 2011.

Aynalem with community outreach worker, Woineshet, in Ethiopia. (MSH)

 

Twenty six year-old Aynalem Bekele has spent her entire life struggling to survive. Left in poverty after her father’s death, Aynalem and her mother baked injera (bread) and washed clothes to afford the rent on their small, dilapidated house in Hawassa, Ethiopia.

In late 2008, Aynalem’s health began to deteriorate leaving her bedridden, unable to work or care for her elderly mother, and struggling to survive yet again.

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.

All key indicators for SHTP II improve from FY10 to FY11: Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, third dose (DPT3); Intermittent Preventive Therapy, second dose (IPT2); first and fourth antenatal care visits (ANC1, ANC4); skilled birth attendant (SBA) deliveries; and family planning (FP) visits.

 

All project health indicators for the second phase of the USAID-funded Sudan Health Transformation Project (SHTP II), led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH) in partnership with the International Rescue Committee, have shown improved performance over the past two years.

On the ground, this means that more people are being immunized against diseases, communities are receiving education on HIV, and lives are being improved.

Cross-posted from the Global Health Magazine blog.

How did Malawi control its brain drain?

The British Medical Journal issued a report last month estimating that nine African countries have lost $2 billion worth of investment in training and educating doctors who have subsequently migrated abroad. It needn't be this way. Doctors, nurses and other health professionals do not have to give up home, family and country to earn enough money to give themselves and their children a future, even a modest one. And it needn't cost low income countries billions of dollars to train the doctors and nurses who then leave for greener pastures.

InsideStoryTheMovie.org

Inside Story: The Science of HIV/AIDS, a new feature-length docudrama in which USAID plays a supporting role, premiered to a packed theater in Johannesburg, South Africa, on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2011.

Inside Story is a unique mixture of science and fiction and includes cast members and characters from Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

The 16th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (ICASA) opened today, December 5, 2011, at the newly refurbished Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with a colorful and lively music and dance production by the Ethiopian National Theatre and Traditional Music Group and the Addis Ababa Youth & Children’s Theatre.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé at the 16th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA). Credit: UNAIDS/J.Ose.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé gave an impassioned welcome speech remembering the last 30 years of AIDS and the 24 million African lives lost to the epidemic. He called for solidarity and compassion for the 34 million people currently living with HIV.

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