Last week I returned home from a wonderful trip to Burundi and Uganda, to visit malaria program sites supported by your gifts to the ELCA Malaria Campaign. Rest assured that you will hear much more about this trip in the coming weeks and months!
While we were in Uganda, my colleagues and I had the privilege of meeting with 6 of the 11 VHTs (Village Health Team members) who bring malaria care to the household level in the sub-county of Magoro in Katakwi District, Uganda. They shared with us a striking "State of the Community" report that detailed the many ways in which the Lutheran malaria program, implemented by The Lutheran World Federation-Uganda (LWF), had created lasting and positive change in the Magoro community. We thank these hard-working VHTs for their dedication and expertise, which are changing lives.
Photo: Martha, Robert, Joseph, William and James, several of the VHTs who serve in Magoro sub-county.
Here is their report, in its entirety:
We the VHTs of Magoro Health Center III, in Magoro sub-county of Katakwi District and particularly working under Lutheran World Federation on Malaria Programme, would like to present a short memo to the visiting LWF/ELCA team as follows:
State of the community before LWF came in:
- Malaria cases were rampant in the villages and treatment was only accessed in the Health Center.
- Pregnant mothers, people living with HIV and AIDS, orphans and vulnerable children and others hardly accessed services from the Health Center.
- Communities didn't know what causes malaria and how to prevent and treat it.
- They didn't know the proper use of LLINs.
- The community had few hygiene and sanitation facilities.
- Some communities were stuck in cultural myths, for example: pregnant mothers were not allowed to use pit latrines.
- Very few people accessed malaria and HIV tests.
- The community didn't know that Neem trees were very useful because they act as repellants to mosquitoes. [Note: Neem trees produce a chemical that repels mosquitoes and its seeds have a larvicidal effect.]
- The VHTs lacked sensitization and trainings, although it used to happen once in a while.
State of the community after LWF introduced the Malaria Programme: After the introduction of the Malaria Programme in Magoro sub-county and Katakwi district as a whole, the following changes have taken place, especially in the villages where VHTs give services:
- The organization has championed the sensitization and training of 11 VHTs to work directly with the organization on malaria. The VHTs therefore are sensitizing communities on prevention, testing and treatment of malaria at village level.
- The organization has also joined hands with the VHTs to sensitize the communities on proper use of LLINs [long-lasting insecticide-treated nets]
- The communities are able to prevent malaria by clearing bushed, draining waters around, planting Neem trees, sleeping under LLINs, etc.
- Pregnant mothers, people living with HIV and AIDS, orphans and vulnerable children and others easily get services from the VHTs and the health clinic.
- The LWF organization has made it possible for the services to be taken to the hard-to-reach areas like Angisa Parish.
- With provision of test and treatment (ACTs/Coartem) [artemesinin-based combination therapies: the frontline medication to treat malaria] to the Health Center, the cases of malaria reported and referred to the Health Center have sharply gone down.
- The introduction of "Outreaches" [community events to educate, test and treat malaria] at village level and in Primary Schools in the sub county is also another good achievement because many malaria cases are dealt with, and also the communities are sensitized at the outreach.
- Most of the community members have hygiene and sanitation facilities. This has been possible because the VHTs, with support from LWF, carry out community events.
- The introduction of radio talk shows, drama shows and others by LWF has made it easy for masses to be sensitized.
- Today, LWF has sensitized communities to have Village Savings and Loan Associations to help them fight poverty.
Photo: Martha, pictured with son Gerald, loves being a VHT in Magoro sub-county. Martha says: "I love my job because I am proud to bring testing and treatment to the village so that people don't have to travel to the Health Center to receive care. But I am happy that the Health Center is there so I can refer complicated cases such as convulsions or women who might miscarry. I am also happy to help the households in my village to create better sanitation and hygiene facilities like pit latrines and dish racks."