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Monday, November 12, 2012

Shot@Life Trip to Uganda

There are so many take-aways from the Shot@Life Uganda trip, it would take hours, if not days, to really delve into each thing observed and learned. Broken down simply, though, here's what I've got:

~ Motherhood is Universal
~ We Live in a Global Society
~ Vaccinations Level the Playing Field

I'll illustrate how I learned these things in two parts, today's post and tomorrow's post. Thanks for reading.


For many in Uganda, time is the most valuable resource that one possesses. As such, a resident might think that a walk to a Health Clinic may not be the best use of one's time, particularly when one's experience has been that when they do make the journey, use up their time to travel to the clinic, they find that it is closed, or they have run out of medicine, or the 'doctor' on duty is a fraud. You can imagine why there might not be much faith or trust in health care.

In order to deliver needed vaccines and health care to citizens, UNICEF has partnered with different organizations, including faith-based organizations. Family Health Days have been established, and they occur four times a year (January, April, July, October). Leading up to Family Health Days, Pastors and Imams let their congregations know about the upcoming event. They announce, "Please come to Family Health Day! Tell your neighbors who aren't here - they are invited. It's free! And the vaccines are safe and will save your children's lives." Ugandans trust their leaders of faith - 90% of the country's residents attend a church or mosque on a weekly basis. It's a wonderful and fascinating way to deliver health care.

We attended two Family Health Days. I've already written about attending at the Mosque in Mubende. We also attended another Family Health Day in the Fort Portal area, but we had the distinct pleasure of meeting with a family before attending Mass.

credit: Insider Images 

Baby Harriett is 5 months old. She lives with: her father, Brian (21); Brian's sister Juliet (16); Brian's sister Prishna (19); Prishna's daughter Reena (18 months); and her grandmother, Brian's mother, Rosemary. When I say 'grandmother,' it might give you perspective to learn that Rosemary is 35. Baby Harriett's mother, Sheila (20), is away at nursing school, which she will finish this year. Brian is a mechanic, and Baby Harriett is cared for mainly by both sets of her grandparents. Harriett was born in a government hospital, and with her mother 230 kilometers away, Harriett's diet consists mainly of cow's milk.

credit: Insider Images

Maggie, LaShaun, Nancy, and I met at Baby Harriett's home, along with a local nurse, and our wonderful UNICEF host, Miriam. We gathered in the front room of their home, small and very neatly arranged. We got to know each other and took some pictures before going to the local Catholic Church, where services had already begun. We were welcomed by the Priest and sat down to enjoy the services. The church was packed to overflowing. While I didn't understand everything that was said, I certainly felt everything that was sung (hey, put this on your Life List: listen to an African choir and congregation sing together).

Following the services, the congregation lined up to participate in Family Health Day. We followed Rosemary as she first registered Baby Harriett for her birth certificate (where Brian was registered as Mechanic, Sheila was registered as Student, and Rosemary was registered as Peasant). Next Harriett was weighed - almost 5 kilos. At her age she should be 6 or above. Her arm circumference was measured, and all measurements were combined to arrive at the conclusion that Baby Harriett is severely malnourished.

credit: Insider Images

Harriett received an oral polio vaccination and two injections (DPT and measles), and Rosemary was advised regarding Harriett's nutrition: she needs to be on a protein supplement. Rosemary's reply was that they can't afford anything more than millet porridge. Miriam suggested that when she's old enough, Harriett will have access to and receive Plumpy'nut.

With that, we bid farewell to Rosemary as she carried Baby Harriett back to her home. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to continue to follow her progress.

Check out part 2 of this post, Shot@Life Uganda - My Favorite Part

I traveled to Uganda as part of a Shot@Life delegation in late October. I am grateful to Shot@Life and the United Nations Foundation for this life-changing and humbling experience. 


Jen said...

I love hearing about this trip you took! Thanks so much for sharing!

jyl from @momitforward said...

I love that pic of you holding the baby! Sooooo cute! I can't wait to hear more about this trip.


Emily said...

Please keep these posts and photos coming. Love them.

Unknown said...

Yes, more posts! What a sweet baby. More, more, more!

Actually, I just want to have lunch with you so you can tell me all about it at once. :)