Good health is an essential component of social and economic development. Poor health negatively impacts adults’ capability to work and support their families, and prevent children from being able to attend school regularly. Many preventable diseases, especially in women and children, have led to deaths due to the lack of proper medical care. In recent years, Kitega has mourned the loss of several young children to cancer and malnutrition. While other serious illnesses, such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, continue to impair the health of many community members. These grave health problems exist because many in the community lack access to affordable health care. The nearest public hospital is far away and is often crowded; many families also cannot afford the fees required to treat their health issues. In response to these challenges, Kitega Centre has implemented both short-term and long-term initiatives aimed at improving community health.
Short-term Initiatives: When funding and grants are available, Kitega organizes health drives to address specific health problems. Past health drives include the following:
Malaria Awareness and Mosquito Net Distribution:
We taught community members how to take steps towards preventing mosquito bites. Additionally, we distributed brand new mosquito net and repaired/re-treated used mosquito nets.
Combating Jigger Infections: Jiggers, a flea-like bug, are rampant in certain communities in the area where many homes frequently get infested. Jigger bites can cause painful sores, inflammation, lesions and infections. The bites can cause more serious problems such as the loss of limbs, tetanus, gangrene and can even be fatal. To fight jigger infections, the Centre has sprayed insecticide in some of the affected areas, and this has helped to reduce jigger infections.
HIV/AIDS Awareness and Testing: Each year Kitega Centre observes International HIV/AIDS Day by partnering with staff from Kawolo Hospital to provide testing, counseling and education. In the past, Kitega Centre has engaged online volunteers from the United Nations Online Volunteering program to create educational materials for distribution during Awareness Week.
Dental Care: In 2011 Kitega Centre partnered with Mulago Paramedical School to provide dental exams and dental hygiene education. With the help of international supporters, Kitega has also distributed toothbrushes and toothpastes to community members.
Eye Care: In 2012, international volunteers brought equipments to provide eye exams and to raise awareness about vision care; they also distributed eyeglasses to children and adults.
Long-term Health Initiative: Community Health Centre and Community Health Insurance
Kitega’s long-term goal is to build a health centre in the area where the centre operates, to have mobile health units, and to have a community health insurance program. The Centre has made concrete steps toward making these goals a reality. Most notably, online volunteers have researched and found successful health care co-op models and community health insurance schemes. The volunteers put Kitega staff in contact with health clinics in Bushenyi in western Uganda, which, Kitega’s Public Relations Officer David Clemy, visited in November 2010. He was amazed at how the centres were able to provide medical services for rural populations at affordable prices. For example, at a centre in Iraramira, blood tests and treatments for the cold and for malaria ranged from $1 to $3. At a health centre in Kitabi, more than 2,000 people have health insurance with a premium of only $2. The visit to Bushenyi was eye-opening for David because it showed that it is possible to provide affordable health care services to people in poor rural areas. The next major step is to fundraise so that a basic health room or mobile unit can be equipped to treat common problems in Kitega.