Malaria in Uganda
More than 10,500 people die from malaria in Uganda annually. The country also has one of the highest rates of transmission and mortality rates due to malaria. Uganda has been described as a malaria-endemic country due to the particular hold the disease has on the area. Globally, Ugandans are one of the top five populations at risk for malaria. Malaria has been a serious health issue for decades and several measures have been taken to lessen the burden of the disease. The government of Uganda is working with several organizations to reduce the spread of malaria in Uganda.

The Uganda Malaria Strategic Plan

The Uganda Malaria Reduction Strategic Plan was implemented in 2014. The goals of the plan include reducing the mortality rate from malaria to almost zero by 2020, reducing the morbidity rate by nearly 80 percent by 2020 and reducing the malaria prevalence of the parasite to 7 percent by 2020. Their strategy is to quickly provide the general population with means of malaria control and prevention.

The plan has had great progress so far, the prevalence of malaria in the country has decreased from 42 percent in 2009 down to 19 percent in 2018, and deaths from malaria in Uganda have been cut in half. Although the plan has done well to ensure facilities are well stocked and prevention measures are taken, some are still receiving inadequate care.

Funding to Eradicate Malaria

The Uganda Malaria Reduction Strategic plan is being implemented by the government’s Ministry of Health and supported by organizations such as the Global Fund and USAID. The plan provides details of its budget and where that money will be implemented. It is projected that the six-year plan will require $1,316,700.

These funds come from organizations like USAID and Global Fund and are used in each phase of the structure of the plan. The phases include but are not limited to ensuring access to malaria treatments and prevention methods, increasing the community’s knowledge surrounding the disease, increasing the treatment of malaria during pregnancy and strengthening the detection and response to this epidemic.

Problems at the Local Level

One of the problems is that some people are receiving the wrong treatment and care. The Moroto Regional Referral Hospital discovered that some patients were being treated for malaria despite negative test results. USAID’s Uganda Health Supply Chain Program has taken steps to change these incorrect medical practices and provide training to improve medical practices at Moroto Hospital.

Their steps have had an impact. The testing rate rose from 45 percent to 86 percent, and the number of patients mistakenly receiving treatment without a positive test result decreased from 31 percent to 9 percent. Other hospitals heard of the success at Moroto Hospital and have expressed interest in undertaking similar policies.

The future for the battle against malaria in Uganda is bright. Uganda won an award in January of 2017 for their significant progress in fighting malaria. The African Leaders Malaria Alliance recognized Uganda and 7 other countries for striving towards a malaria-free Africa. With local governments, leaders and aid organizations working together, permanent progress can be made. The country has already made great strides in their fight against malaria and there is optimism for a malaria-free future in Uganda.

– Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Flickr

Top 5 Countries Receiving Economic Aid in 2019
In the fiscal year 2019, the U.S. Federal Government plans on spending $1.24 trillion. Out of this amount, foreign assistance will account for $27 billion. This spending is broken down into several categories including economic development. Approximately $2 billion will be directed toward generating economic growth in developing countries. In the text below, the top five countries receiving the economic aid in 2019 are presented.

Jordan

The first country on the list is Jordan. Jordan will receive $1.27 billion in aid and roughly 48 percent of that money is planned for economic development. The focus of this aid is on a plan called the Microeconomic Foundation for Growth Assistance. The goal of this funding is to create a stable economic landscape that will allow the private sector to invest. This will aid Jordan by creating both monetary and fiscal policies that will allow the government to have a greater control of the economy.

These reforms are needed due to the economic crisis that Jordan is currently facing. Jordan’s debt makes up 94 percent of the country’s GDP. The cost of living has also risen dramatically in the past years. The Economist ranked Amman, the capital of Jordan, as the most expensive Arab city to live in. However, Jordan is working to end its economic crisis. Recently, Jordan received a $723 million loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and plans to lower the country’s debt to 77 percent of GDP by 2021.  

Afghanistan

The second country on the list is Afghanistan. This country is projected to receive $93 million for economic development. Most of this funds ($57 million), will be aimed toward agricultural development. This money will be focused on the distribution, processing and trade of agricultural goods.

In 2018, Afghanistan’s GDP increased by five times compared to 2002. However, a large trade deficit threatens Afghanistan’s economy. Most of Afghanistan’s economy relies on imports and this is the main reason why the country needs help in distributing agricultural goods. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provided airlifts in 2017 to help export goods to international markets. USAID also provided alternative road transport. In total, this organization helped to move $223 million of goods.  

Kenya

In 2019 Kenya, will receive $624 million of aid from the United States. Out of this amount, 5 percent will be aimed at economic development of the country, totaling $29 million. Almost 80 percent of this money will be for agriculture. Like Afghanistan, the focus of the aid is towards the distribution, processing and trade of agricultural goods.

In Kenya, agriculture makes up 27 percent of the country’s GDP and it is vulnerable to various kinds of natural disasters, like droughts. In 2014, Kenya reported a national drought emergency and the drought left millions of people vulnerable.

The drought continued to 2018 and USAID is studying the situation and working on solutions to help lessen the impact of the drought. In the period of 2015 to 2017 USAID implemented several programs to help create more drought resistant incentives for farmers. Kenya’s GDP is expected to grow by 5.5 percent in 2018, compared to 4.8 in 2017. This is directly related to a better weather situation in the country.

Tanzania

Economic aid directed toward Tanzania is projected to be 1 percent of the aid package, which equals $7 million. This amount will be aimed towards agriculture.

Agriculture makes up for 25 percent of Tanzania’s GDP and around 75 percent the country population is employed in this sector. The United States sees this as an opportunity to increase incomes and living conditions for Tanzanians. USAID has been working on a program in Tanzania known as Feed the Future. This program increases competitiveness, productivity and creates infrastructure so farmers can reach more markets.

In 2017, over 400,000 Tanzanians have benefited from Feed the Future. This is reiterated by the fact that rice productivity doubled per acre and the average gross margins for horticulture reached $3,900 per acre.

Uganda   

Uganda is projected to receive $461 million in 2019. Four percent or almost $19 million are going towards economic development. Majority of this amount is going towards agriculture development.

Like Tanzania, a large percentage of Uganda’s GDP and workforce are concentrated in agriculture. Twenty-four percent of the country’s GDP is made up of agriculture and farming employs two-thirds of the population.

USAID implemented the Feed the Future Program in Uganda as well. One of the most important initiatives was implementing an e-verification sticker in fruits sold that was intended for keeping track of purchase inputs. This initiative is aimed at combating the $1 billion loss that Uganda faces from counterfeit inputs on yearly basis. It also laid private investors consciences to rest, since they invested over $6 million in Uganda’s agricultural business in 2016.

In summary, the top five countries receiving the economic aid from the U.S. in 2019 are Jordan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The United States government invests billions of dollars every year into foreign aid. One of the best ways to use that money is to invest in economic development, which helps improve the conditions of people living in developing countries.

Economic stability is one of the most crucial factors in ensuring safety across the world. 

– Drew Garbe
Photo: Flickr

Child Refugees in Uganda
With a mass exodus from South Sudan, Uganda has become the largest refugee-host nation in Africa. Both 2017 and 2018 saw a significant influx of refugees into the country. Experts believe the number of refugees is only going to increase in the upcoming period.

As more and more refugees enter Uganda, its basic services and resources are continuously put under increased stress. Child refugees in Uganda have become a very significant issue facing the Ugandan government and international organizations. However, government and different organizations teamed up to initiate a long-term plan to help refugee and native-born children alike.

The Problem in Numbers

As of early 2018, there were over one million refugees from South Sudan and 300,000 from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other closely neighboring countries in Uganda. Out of these 1.3. million, its estimated that 61 percent are children.

Due to a shortage of aid workers, funding and supplies refugee children face severe consequences such as virus and disease outbreaks. The Ugandan Ministry of Health alongside the U.N. International Children’s Emergency Funds (UNICEF) were able to successfully stop a Marburg virus outbreak in refugee camps. Despite this achievement, there are growing concerns about measles, malaria and cholera.

Many child refugees in Uganda face little access to education. Only 35 percent of 5-year-olds entering primary schooling were enrolled in any sort of educational programs provided by nonprofit organizations or by the Ugandan government.

Extremely high acute malnutrition rates ranged from 14.9 percent to 21.5 percent among new arrivals, with some areas experiencing a 2 percent growth in malnutrition rates in 2018.

There is a high number of unaccompanied children that are often the most vulnerable with little to no support from adult-aged persons. These children can be easily forced into armed groups or sex slavery.

The Northern Region of Uganda is responsible for most of the refugees and has also experienced challenges for the local children. For instance, 24 percent of females older than 15 are illiterate, 17 percent of school-aged children are out of school, 53 out of 1000 children die before their fifth birthday and 21 percent of Ugandans live in poverty.

Nongovernmental Organizations Efforts

While the refugee crisis has proven to be a great challenge for Uganda, the country has chosen to commit its resources in order to protect and provide for the vulnerable population living alongside the local population. Three international organizations have begun long-term projects in order for the Ugandan government to reform the country and better care for refugees and native populations alike.

Save the Children

Save the Children is the largest global charity for children started in the United States. The nonprofit has worked alongside the U.N. in implementing their programs throughout Northern Uganda. As of 2017, Save the Children oversaw six refugee sites, an emergency health unit teamed up the Ugandan Ministry of Health and 30 child-friendly spaces and educational facilities. Moreover, additional programs extended beyond refugee camps to encompass local communities with the goal of increasing child protection, education and food and economic security.

According to their 2017 report, 66,114 children were given shelter, 89,790 were cared for in crisis situations, 312,790 were provided with medical and sanitation supplies, 20,169 were raised from malnutrition and 3,154 parents were supported to meet the basic needs of their children.

UNHCR

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has primarily focused its attention on identifying refugee populations and supporting unaccompanied children. Working in close collaboration with the Ugandan government, the agency’s largest biometric data in history was launched in 2017. The point of recording refugees and providing identification for them is to better plan and situate resources and responses. If aid groups know exactly where vulnerable populations are and what are their circumstances, then professionals will respond more effectively and efficiently. To this date, over one million refugees have been identified.

As children spill across the border without adult supervision, extra resources are needed for their protection. The UNHCR has created and built settlements where older children are the heads of the household and they are provided with shelter, protection, education and basic services. However, staff shortages have proven difficult to monitoring these children at all times.

UNICEF

UNICEF has taken a lead role in helping child refugees in Uganda by directing programs between the Ugandan government and active nonprofits. Unfortunately, the agency only received 30 percent of requested funding in 2017. Despite these shortages, 61 percent of total targets were still met in nutrition (741,436 children aided), health (667,050), sanitation (463,480), protection (13,821), education (119,059) and HIV & AIDS (4,630).

With these results in mind, UNICEF has ambitious goals going forward. In 2018, the organization is expecting a final requested funding of more than $66 million. This funding will be focused on education, health, water and sanitation, nutrition, protection and HIV/AIDS.

Furthermore, the agency is beginning the planning of a long-term and collaborative program between nonprofits, the Ugandan government and international agencies. The basic provisions of the program include the dispersion of technological supplies and know-how, national educational and health strategies linked with refugees and the strengthening of emergency response teams. For example, m–Tac, a mobile app recently introduced to Uganda, allows agencies to send vital information to field teams during crises.

Humanitarian groups and the Ugandan government are launching some of the world’s largest refugee programs. The question of receiving refugees has long been about how to best protect them from harm and danger. The child refugees in Uganda certainly have a long path ahead of them, but they won’t have to walk on alone.

– Tanner Helem
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Uganda
Life expectancy in Uganda has significantly improved in the past decade. Ugandan men born in 2016 are now projected to live 59.8 years, and women have a life expectancy of 64.8 years. This is a marked increase from 2000 when Uganda’s average life expectancy was only 47 years.

The higher rate of life expectancy correlates to more expected years of schooling (11.6 years) and an improved Human Development Index (HDI) value, a summary measure that assesses the long-term progress of a given nation. In 2017, Uganda’s HDI value was 0.516, a substantial 66 percent jump from 1990.

Raising the Life Expectancy Rate

The Ugandan government is working proactively to raise the life expectancy rate even more in the future. In conjunction with The Family Planning Association of Uganda, its initiatives include lowering the population growth rate from 3 percent to 2.6 percent, improving the current population’s physical and mental health as well as social standards and implementing fertility reduction measures. The government additionally plans to incorporate sex education in schools, maternity and paternity benefits and raising the legal marriage age.

The government’s efforts to limit population growth have proven to be effective. “[B]ecause they have smaller families than in the 1980s that makes them enjoy some kind of mental peace and increase their life expectancy,” said Paul Nyende, the head of The Institute of Community Psychology at Makerere University. He also added, “People had an average of eight children in those years, but the number has now been reduced to four because they are sure of their children’s survival.”

Life expectancy in Uganda is steadily improving, but there is much work to be done. Uganda has not yet met the threshold of a developed country. Even with Uganda’s improved HDI, the East African country still remains low in the development category when compared to the 70 years or more found in developed countries.

Issues That Need to Be Addressed

The country’s health care continues to be among the worst in the world. In fact, according to The World Health Organization, Uganda is ranked 186 out of 191 nations. This has gotten worse in recent years since many of Uganda’s hospitals have closed and a large number of medical personnel have left the country for better opportunities.

“Communicable diseases like HIV, malaria and lower respiratory infections are still taking the lives of far too many Ugandans. Children are at particular risk, and neonatal ailments like sepsis, pre-term birth and encephalopathy have killed thousands of infants. There is still a lot of work to be done…” said Dr. Dan Kajungu, Executive Director of Makerere University Centre for Health and Population Research (MUCHAP).

However, Uganda has already set itself up as a global example in regards to addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Uganda continues to successfully combat HIV/AIDS with a comprehensive strategy involving abstinence, partner reduction and barrier protection, all resulting in the reduction of HIV to a manageable level since the early 2000s. This is in contrast to rising HIV rates in many other countries and has played a key part in Uganda’s improvements to life expectancy.

Furthermore, improvements have been made in the health sector in regards to maternal and child mortality rates, which have dropped from 488 to 336 per 1000 for maternal and 54 to43 per 1000 infant. Immunizations are up as well. At least 72 percent of children will receive measles vaccination before their first birthday.

Going forward, in order to continue increasing life expectancy rates in Uganda, the government must entice skilled Ugandans living abroad to return as well as provide opportunities for people currently living in the country, like education and better career options. If the same rapid acknowledgment is given to other areas of concern in national health, life expectancy in Uganda can only rise.

The government is taking steps in the meantime to nurture their health sector despite the imminent challenges. Goals include movement towards universal health coverage, bolstering immunization rates and having prepared responses to disease outbreaks. The future is promising, and Uganda’s ministry of health expects further improvement as other initiatives take deeper root.

– Yumi Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement The Bidi Bidi refugee settlement is one of several located in Northern Uganda and covers an area mass of 250 square kilometers. It is the biggest refugee camp in the world and houses over 270,000 refugees. Most of the refugees come from South Sudan, a country that gained independence in 2013 but witnessed a new wave of instability and famine in 2016, forcing over 1.6 million South Sudanese to flee their homes. Out of the 1.6 million, 800,000 fled to Uganda. Uganda has one of the most compassionate refugee policies, allowing people to set up their own homes, and refugees are given the right to work and travel, which is uncommon. Uganda has, therefore, become a hot spot for refugees, which has brought an economic strain on the nation, forcing it to rely on humanitarian assistance to sustain millions of refugees.

Who Are the Bidi Bidi

The Bidi Bidi refugee settlement is home to a mostly South Sudanese population. Many of the inhabitants of Bidi Bidi fled because of the threat of murder or imprisonment from rebels or government soldiers. Having left their homes, often walking for days at a time, they arrive at the settlement center with nothing more than the clothes on their back. The process of becoming a refugee is often slow and hectic, but basic needs are met in a timely manner thanks to the NGOs and volunteers’ tremendous effort and funds that have been dedicated to making this refugee camp more livable.

Insecurities

Many of the inhabitants are affected by disease, predominantly malaria and HIV/AIDS. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes breed in wet environments, and due to the rains in Uganda, no one is safe from malaria. Therefore, it is imperative that these settlements have proper access to medical aid and resources to ensure the well-being of refugees. In addition to a lack of medical resources, malnutrition affects most of the population of Bidi Bidi and the rest of Uganda. The Ugandan government has been under pressure to provide food for those malnourished, but it is almost impossible without humanitarian aid and support.

Opportunities in Bidi Bidi

Each organization working within the Ugandan settlement camps and Bidi Bidi offers different and varied opportunities for refugees to support themselves and regain a sense of normalcy. Caritas is an organization aimed at promoting justice and helping the poor, and they have mobilized efforts to give aid to the people of Bidi Bidi. Depending on which zone of the camp refugees live in, some receive a plot of land, agricultural tools and seeds to begin to sustain themselves and create opportunities for businesses.

Many women in Bidi Bidi have access to psycho-social support and empowerment resources that have been set up within the camp. The U.N. has created a system of revolving funds, meaning that funds are replenished when used, which allows women to learn vocational skills such as hairdressing and helping women build their own businesses. This leads to empowerment and creates a sense of stability in an unstable world.

The Future of the Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement

The Bidi Bidi refugee settlement is the largest of its kind in the world, it uses what it can to create and offer opportunities and resources to refugees, so they may live more independently. It focuses on rehabilitation and independence and creates a sense of hope for the future of the inhabitants of Bidi Bidi. The unrest and violence in South Sudan still create thousands of refugees on a daily basis. The long-term solution is to achieve peace in South Sudan, so people can return home. However, in the short-term, it is imperative that Uganda receives humanitarian aid to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its inhabitants.

– Trelawny Robinson 
Photo: Flickr

Uganda
Uganda has rich, fertile soil and ample rainfall, and 82 percent of Uganda’s population work in agriculture. Despite these factors, which should lead to a surplus of food, Uganda still struggles with widespread hunger. This small country has a fast-growing population that is expected to reach 100 million by 2050. International nongovernment organizations (NGOs) are working hard to make sure Uganda will be able to feed its people. It is important to be informed in order to help, so here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Uganda.

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Uganda

  1. Uganda’s poverty rate declined from 31 percent in 2006 to 19.7 percent in 2013. However, massive population growth in northern and eastern regions was significant; therefore, the actual number of people living in poverty did not decrease much at all.
  2. Approximately 84 percent of Ugandans live in rural communities and rely on agriculture for food and their livelihoods. This can make families vulnerable to weather cycles and natural disasters that can affect crop yields. Even if families can produce surplus food, they often do not have the means to reliably store their surplus.
  3. Food storage facilities are so inadequate that approximately 30 percent of food stored is lost. Facilities do not adequately protect food stores from pests, moisture or mold. Lack of reliable storage contributes to overall food insecurity and hunger in Uganda, especially during seasons with light rainfall.
  4. Approximately 21 percent of Ugandans do not have access to clean water, which impedes people’s ability to stay hydrated, avoid disease and cook meals. The Hunger Project has been working in Uganda to increase the number of facilities where people can access clean water and safely dispose of waste.
  5. Uganda has hosted more refugees than any other African country with 1.3 million refugees in 2017, primarily from South Sudan and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. The additional mouths to feed have severely strained Uganda’s food resources, and both malnutrition and anemia run rampant in refugee settlements.
  6. The most common foods in Uganda are matoke and posho, which are both very poor in vitamins. The lack of nutritious foods and balanced diets has led to high rates of malnutrition and related diseases such as vitamin deficiencies, stunting and anemia. This deficiency actually ends up costing the state a great deal of money.
  7. Malnutrition costs Uganda $899 million per year, in other words, 5.6 percent of its national income. Poor nutrition affects work productivity the most, reducing the physical capacities of the laborers. This ended up costing Uganda $317 million in 2009. Malnutrition-related health treatments have further cost Uganda $254 million.
  8. For children, malnutrition is even more dangerous. Between 2004 to 2009, around 110,220 children died of malnutrition. A large part of the problem is that 82 percent of cases of child malnutrition in Uganda go untreated, accounting for 15 percent of child mortality cases in the country.
  9. Approximately 29 percent of children under the age of five are stunted, meaning they are too short for their ages. Stunting is a result of undernourishment and malnutrition and can lead to a number of other physical and mental health problems. More than half of the adult population in Uganda was stunted during childhood.
  10. Undernourished children are more likely to drop out of school or repeat academic years. An estimated 133,000 Ugandan children per year have to repeat grades. Uganda’s government released a report in 2013 that said, “When the child is undernourished, that child’s brain is less likely to develop at healthy rates, and that child is more likely to have cognitive delays.” Children in poverty have even less of a chance of getting out of poverty if they cannot get an education.

Addressing the Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Uganda

A number of NGOs are working to reduce hunger in Uganda, such as Farm Africa (FA) and The World Food Programme (WFP). Both FA and WFP target Ugandan farmers to help increase their crops and process surpluses while improving the sustainability of the land. WFP also works to improve crisis responses by providing food and cash aid, helps to build resilience by providing important skills training and works with the government to provide nutritious meals to school children.

Two other organizations, The Hunger Project (THP) and Action Against Hunger (AAH), have already reached hundreds of thousands of people in Uganda. THP works in 494 villages to decrease poverty. They have helped 287,807 people access basic services by building sustainable and self-reliant communities around 11 epicenters.

AAH works in refugee centers and has helped 597,390 people in 2017 alone, focusing on nutrition, water, sanitation, livelihoods and food security. The health centers provided in Uganda work with families to screen for malnutrition and provide information on nutrition to prevent cases of under-nourished children.

Uganda has a long road ahead in its efforts to reduce poverty and hunger. By being aware of the underlying causes, NGOs and governments can work together to implement solutions. Providing sustainable farming practices, clean water and sanitation and access to medical treatment are key steps in alleviating hunger in Uganda

 

– Kathryn Quelle
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Uganda
Refugees from almost all of the countries that border Uganda — such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Kenya and South Sudan — chose to seek safety in Uganda over the last 20 years due to conflict.

Nakivale is a refugee settlement in Uganda that offers access to education and gives refugee children the opportunity to grow into leaders — a skillset that helps protect them from child labor and child marriage. Education in an impoverished area like Uganda can result in many positive benefits.

Educational Resources in Nakivale

Uganda encourages refugees to prosper, especially when it comes to education. Nakivale hosts more than 100,000 refugees, and provides them with numerous resources.

These resources include land, materials needed to build a home or a building where education can be present, and the opportunity to create one’s own work including through the avenue of education.

Working to Improve Educational Opportunities for Refugees

The chance to grow and build a community is embraced for refugees in Uganda. While there are indeed resources for educational opportunities, access to an established education system for children is limited in Nakivale.

However, there are initiatives for helping improve the lack of education. Since the government and the people of Nakivale are supportive of allowing refugees coming into their country, they are also willing to provide tools to promote education.  

One way that education is being improved in Nakivale is through the creation of a university. A group of young men in Nakivale created a university in the camp because they wanted to ensure that children had access to safe and adequate education.

Bridging the Gap

In 2016, 3.5 million refugee children did not have access to education. Knowledge is crucial to the impoverished because it can help them become leaders, build up their communities and keep them away from child labor and child marriage.

Refugees in Uganda have the tools and support they need to have an education. Education in an impoverished area not only benefits the people but also helps get rid of global poverty. Being educated, especially when dealing with global poverty, can help create a positive result for all impoverished populations.

– Kelly Kipfer
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health Care in Uganda
In many countries around the globe, healthcare professionals have begun to fully realize the need for comprehensive mental health care along with physical care. However, in many developing countries, where access to basic needs such as clean water and vaccines can be hard to come by, mental health care is often viewed as an unnecessary addition to the already costly and (rare) healthcare systems that may be in place.

Mental Health in Uganda

Uganda is the last of the six African countries with the highest number of mental health cases reported. Of the 38 million people in Uganda, almost 5 percent experience clinical depression and almost 3 percent deal with anxiety disorders. Now, the government has taken a new look at options to address mental health care in Uganda.

The Ministry of Health has begun The Health Services Strategic Plan (HSSP), a comprehensive plan to overcome the challenges many developing countries face in providing access to good physical and mental health care. There are some crucial barriers that Uganda, and many other countries, must overcome in order to fully assist their citizens in receiving proper mental health care.

  • Distance: One-third of Uganda’s population lives over 5 kilometers from the nearest health facility, and it is not guaranteed that the nearest facility will have patients’ pharmaceutical requirements or even be equipped to treat the patient’s medical needs.
  • Communication: In the healthcare field, direct and effective communication is key to both the success of the program and the well-being of patients. In Uganda, 43 different languages and dialects are spoken, making communication for all involved—doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and patients—difficult when it comes to discussing diagnosis, treatment, medications and discharge information.
  • Funding: In developing countries, the cost is often a large factor in the country’s ability to provide healthcare to their people. Only 9.8 percent of Uganda’s GDP is spent on healthcare, and less than 1 percent of these funding is directed towards mental health care.
  • Stigmas about mental health: Mental illness has long been stigmatized by the general public around the world. The concept that people suffering from mental illness have done something to deserve or create their struggles can have a powerful effect on one’s willingness to seek the necessary treatments.

Treating Trauma for Women

Poverty and mental illness often augment each other in a negative cycle. In Uganda, and in many other countries where poverty is prevalent, women and girls have a greater risk of mental illness. In Uganda, 80 percent of women who have received care for trauma-related issues have reported experiencing sexual assault. The negative consequences to one’s mental health associated with such a traumatic incident often keep people at low levels economically, socially and mentally.

The cycle of abuse towards women along with expectations of marriage and childbearing in at a young age and the minimal educational opportunities available perpetuate the ongoing cycle of poverty as a whole. In 2012, The Uganda Ministry of Health and World Health Organization (WHO) became partners in solving the growing issue of insufficient access to treatment options for mental health care in Uganda, specifically for children, women and those living in poverty.

Focus on Children and Adolescents

One component of Uganda’s new work on mental health care is Child and Adolescent Mental Health training, or CAMH. By providing access to mental health care for children and adolescents, Uganda can promote well-being from a young age, thereby de-stigmatizing the act of seeking and receiving care and support as needed. Therefore, training more professional is integral to the success of the new mental health policies.

In order to complete this mission, the training will tackle the issues preventing access to mental health care for all in Uganda through 5 main objectives: increasing knowledge surrounding mental health care, improving availability of mental, neurological and substance abuse care, increasing research, monitoring and evaluation of mental health concerns, contributions to the development of legislation, and increasing collaboration in providing mental health care to children and adolescents.

Treating Depression With HIV/AIDS

In 2016, a program was initiated in Uganda, developed Dr. Etheldreda Nakimuli-Mpungu, that focused on mental health care in relation to HIV/AIDs. Nearly one-third of HIV/AIDs patients experience depression. While the number of facilities and healthcare professionals trained to deal with HIV/AIDs has increased, access to mental health care has remained minimal.

The new program has introduced ‘group support psychotherapy,’ targeting the management of depressive symptoms occurring in those with HIV/AIDS. It is believed that 70 percent of patients will recover substantially from depression through the group therapy, thereby positively influencing self-esteem, feelings of social support, and general functioning levels. By alleviating patient’s depression through mental health care in tandem with physical care needed, it is predicted that 20 percent of patients will experience less poverty due to higher productivity rates.

The country of Uganda began drafting legislation targeted at towards these and more mental health issues in its new Mental Health Policy, which will review and revise the 1964 Mental Health Act. The aim is to provide structure and safety for those struggling with emotional, neurological or substance abuse problems as well as create preventative measures involving communities and regional, rather than national, healthcare centers and professionals.  

Through Uganda’s new efforts and policies, there is now hope that those suffering from mental health issues in the country will be able to seek the help they need. By working to provide the training, facilities and education against stigmas necessary to enact real change in the community, Uganda will be able to alleviate some of the mental health issues being faced, which will, in turn, help alleviate poverty.

– Anna Lally

Photo: Flickr

female empowerment in UgandaOne proven way to fight poverty is through entrepreneurship and empowerment, specifically among women. In Uganda, where poverty is still prevalent, there are various jewelry companies working locally to employ women and teach them skills they need to escape poverty. Through female empowerment in Uganda, along with education and financial security, these five jewelry brands are making substantial efforts to eradicate poverty locally, and engage businesses globally.

Projects Have Hope

Projects Have Hope is a certified non-profit organization promoting female empowerment in Uganda, specifically the Acholi Quarter region. In 2006, Projects Have Hope began buying locally made paper-bead jewelry from the Acholi women. Women, in turn, received compensation, which created a steady source of income in these vulnerable regions.

Beyond financial security, the program has an educational aspect. In 2007, the adult literacy program was created. Currently, there are 32 students enrolled in the program, women aged 18 to 45. New sessions are constantly conducted in the hopes of improving the literacy rate amongst women in the country, which is 71.5 percent.

Vocational training also occurs so that women can expand their professional skills in a variety of ways: “catering, hairstyling and salon management, tailoring, knitting, computer and general office skills studies, and driver’s education.” All these efforts can help increase women’s ability to combat poverty in their lives.

Akola

Akola is a company that ensures 100 percent of its revenue generated from jewelry sales returns to the mission of fighting poverty amongst women in Uganda. Women are employed to make jewelry from paper, cow horns, leather, glass, bone, metals, gemstones and textiles. All materials are sourced ethically and all training for the jewelry making is provided by Akola.

Akola also provides various tiers beyond jewelry-making, including economic employment and social services such as wellness training and educational programs. All are meant to help vulnerable women achieve security in life through female empowerment in Uganda.

Bead For Life

Developed in 2004, Bead For Life is based entirely on female empowerment in Uganda. The company trains women locally on entrepreneurial skills and paper-bead production.

In addition to jewelry, the company created a school called the Street Business School. Thus far, 52 thousand Ugandans have been impacted through the program. Eighty-nine percent of graduates have a business within two years of graduation and the average increase in income is 211 percent. Participating women often live below the national poverty line before attendance so the skills they learn greatly impact their future.

31 Bits

The force behind 31 Bits is generating a cycle of support: women support women by buying jewelry they want to wear. Female empowerment in Uganda is achieved as the company employs women with dignified jobs for their artisanal skills. The company has seen great success and many endorsements from celebrities like Sophia Bush, Jessica Alba and Candace Cameron Bure.

Business, along with physical and mental health, are all aspects taken seriously by the company; in fact, they provide training and educational programs for both. Profound progress against fighting poverty often means elevating these factors.

Tuli

Tuli recognizes sustainable change as being linked to long-term solutions, such as job growth. Their work connects women to a larger market of buyers, which ensures that participating communities will have consistent access to a global economy.

In addition to financially compensating the artists for their work, Tuli reinvests their profits back into Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. As more people migrate to the cities, the capital is becoming an important center of development in the country. Tuli gives back in the form of social projects within the city.

Tuli is a registered social purpose corporation, which allows them to take social or environmental issues into consideration during its decision-making processes instead of just focusing on profit-maximizing efforts. As a result, female empowerment in Uganda is a focus of their work.

Local and Global Success

The World Bank reports that Uganda, as a Sub-Saharan African country, is one of the fastest to reduce its amount of the population living below the $1.90 a day poverty line. In 2013, they reduced their population living below the national poverty line to 19.7 percent — a momentous accomplishment.

As women work locally, crafting their jewelry, their ability to sell globally is having tremendous effects on their ability to become financially secure and escape poverty.

– Taylor Jennings
Photo: Google

Bloodless Malaria Test Sets Bright Future for Sub-Saharan Africa
Brian Gitta is the first and youngest Ugandan inventor to win the African prize for releasing his highly innovative bloodless malaria test. A device called Matibabu tests for malaria by shining a beam of light onto the patient’s finger and can be downloaded on mobile devices.

Matibabu

This bloodless malaria test is low cost and reusable and doesn’t require a physician’s presence. Gitta, in an interview with United Press International, said: “We are incredibly honored to win the Africa Prize — it’s such a big achievement for us because it means that we can better manage production in order to scale clinical trials and prove ourselves to regulators.” These clinical trials will open up new partnership opportunities for Matibabu and vastly expand its entrepreneurial ability.

Many scholars say that Matibabu is “a game changer” for the thousands of people affected by malaria. Clinical trials show that Matibabu has an 80 percent effectiveness rate in identifying malaria, and with constant technology adjustments, Gitta hopes to bring that number up to 90 percent in the coming months.

Gitta’s team continues to perform research on the device as it awaits examination from global regulators. Until the app’s official approval, support from the academic community continues to surface, offering financial and supportive aid to Matibabu.

Malaria in Uganda

Malaria, as defined by the CDC, is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. People who become infected often experience flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, abdominal pain, vomiting or nausea.

In 2016, there were 216 million cases of malaria and over 400 thousand deaths linked to the disease. Uganda specifically bears a large burden by carrying the highest prevalence of malaria, with a rate of 478 cases per 1000 people on yearly basis.

Major challenges of malaria include high transmission intensity, inadequate healthcare resources and inadequate preparedness and response. Since 2014, the disease has decreased by almost 20 percent, but the prevalence is still striking. Inadequate resources include the inability to correctly diagnose the disease due to unqualified staff and inadequate training.

Several attempts have been made in the past to eliminate malaria. Some examples include insecticides and other chemically stronger indoor residual spraying of insecticides. Another example is the utilization of artemisinin-based therapy, which involves the prescription of two separate drugs used to eliminate the parasite located in the bloodstream.

However, these remedies have not proven to be one hundred percent effective. Data from the last decade shows no convincing evidence that malaria has decreased in Uganda in recent years. Gitta’s bloodless malaria test, however, is giving hope to many Ugandan residents who still face the struggle of diagnosis.

Benefits to the New Test

There are several long-term benefits of tests like Matibabu. The accessibility for the general public is arguably the most beneficial, as rural communities now have access to technology and can easily download the app.

Another benefit is that testing is more beneficial and cost-effective than presumption diagnosing. By affirming that a patient does, in fact, have malaria, available resources for malaria treatment can be distributed in the right way.

Furthermore, the World Health Organization states that: “Prompt parasitological confirmation by microscopy or alternatively by RDTs is recommended in all patients suspected of malaria before treatment is started. Treatment solely on the basis of clinical suspicion should only be considered when a parasitological diagnosis is not accessible.” By confirming a diagnosis, planning and treatments can be better financed through a more efficient allocation of money. For example, money being saved for testing could now be financed toward the research of other diseases in Uganda.

Matibabu plans to continue research in the upcoming months. By studying local transmission rates and local treatment costs, Matibabu is better suited to help the welfare of not only Uganda but many sub-Saharan African countries struggling to fight malaria.

– Logan Moore
Photo: Flickr