BY MOSES SSEKIDDE, KIWOKO HOSPITAL COMMUNITY BASED HEALTHCARE PROGRAMME MANAGER
“It is at the community level that the outcome of the battle against AIDS will be decided. Local capacity for prevention, care and support efforts need to be recognised, affirmed and strengthened.”
These wise words from the UNAIDS Global Strategy Framework on HIV/AIDS hold true beyond the HIV epidemic, applying to all diseases that kill large numbers of people in the developing world.
The idea that global problems can be tackled with simple, local solutions is comforting and encouraging. When a community manages its own healthcare, local people play an important role in building the strength and resilience of future generations. That’s why the arrival of a bright red van has made a huge difference to the villagers in rural Nakaseke, in Uganda.
Kiwoko Hospital services 500,000 residents in the Nakaseke district and its immediate neighbourhood. ISIS has been working in partnership with the hospital to help provide Community Based Healthcare (CBHC) services for 16 years. Monthly health clinics travel to 44 villages, providing antenatal and prenatal care, health education, support for people with chronic illness or disabilities and a safe motherhood programme to boost immunisation rates. The CBHC programme is expanding rapidly — more than 10,000 children have been immunised in just two years.
As the programme mushroomed, the need for a new vehicle to reach more people became more and more urgent. Back in 2000, leading reinsurance group PartnerRe made a donation which allowed the hospital and ISIS to buy the first community health vehicle. This was a revolution because the team had been providing outreach services by walking from village to village with vaccine carriers on their backs. Without a vehicle, patients were transported by bicycle or carried. At one stage, a tractor was driven 50 kilometres over clay and dust roads to deliver crucial healthcare and immunisation to a remote village.
However, with a growing programme and a growing team, we needed a bigger vehicle. Our CBHC team is made up of 15 drama group members and 13 fulltime staff members who travel to villages five times a week. With the old vehicle, we were making five trips to reach each village, a mammoth effort.
But now, thanks to the generosity of an incredible ISIS donor, we have bought a new van which carries 15 people and equipment, giving us more precious time to provide services instead of driving back and forth.
The new van really stands out! Most of the vans in our area are white so we painted this one bright red. As well as being a cheerful colour, there is a practical reason for the new paint job – the van can be seen from a great distance, giving villagers advance warning that the health team is on its way.
This is a true multi-purpose vehicle. It provides a private space for confidential services, such as counselling, and we use it as an examination and treatment room when no houses are available.
Our brilliant red van is a great boost for community health. Local people have better services and our team spends a lot less time travelling between villages. But most of all, it means the community health team can reach more people and touch more lives.