A Ugandan Visit with Shot@Life
December 12, 2012 BY Nancy Jones
As a Shot@Life Champion I was selected to join a team going to Uganda to see the success of UNICEF’s immunization campaigns around the world. We departed October 28th and, after 20 hours of flying, arrived in Kampala, Uganda for the beginning of a life-changing visit.
The first morning we met with UNICEF and ALIVE (child survival and development program) staff and were given briefings on Uganda (country overview), country health status, and Uganda’s immunization program. The Ugandan Government, in conjunction with ALIVE and UNICEF teams, have established a quarterly Family Health Day (FHD) using churches and mosques to reach the greatest number of families and children. Ninety percent of Uganda’s people attend a church or mosque every week.
The next day we visited a Mosque and shared the FHD experience with the families in attendance. Children up to five years old had their birth registered and then received the appropriate initial immunization for their age. Older children were given vitamin A supplements, deworming tablets, and routine polio and measles immunizations if needed, monitoring for nutritional status, and insecticide nets. Moms were provided with antenatal and post natal care; Dads were tested for diabetes and blood pressure was taken and recorded. HIV testing was done on adults, with results available that day. With the early detection and medication, the HIV numbers have dropped country-wide.
The moms are so grateful for immunizations. It means their children may reach adulthood. The childhood mortality rate is much too high and most die from vaccine preventable diseases. Entire families can be evaluated on one day. The next quarter the FHD is repeated and babies receive the next in their series of immunizations. Moms are given an immunization record and asked to keep it safe and bring it every time they visit FHD.
The program is working. Births are being registered and children are getting the necessary vaccines for a healthier life. We visited a Catholic congregation on Sunday and walked through the FHD process with Harriett, a happy five month old little girl. She received her basic immunizations, but is underweight, and will receive follow-up consultation from a health worker to assist in nutrition planning. Her grandmother is raising herwhile baby Harriett’s mom attends school. It was nice to know she now has a chance at life through these immunizations.
We also had an opportunity to visit two schools. Education is free to all children, however they don’t have enough teachers and classes are of 60-80 students, 5-10 text books per class, limited supplies, and some teachers don’t read English – the primary language taught in school. However, even with all of the handicaps the students we saw are happy, respective, well behaved; eager to learn and happy to have the opportunity to go to school. They all expressed the same dreams as our children and grandchildren. I’m sure the students we met will reach those goals.
Overall, the trip taught me many things. Shot@Life, UNICEF, ALIVE and the World Health Organization are all making a great difference in the lives of Ugandan families. I will never take for granted the health care we enjoy at home. My children and grandchildren are protected through standard immunizations that we don’t even think about. I don’t have to walk 3-5 miles to obtain health care for myself or my children. My grandchildren attend school with books, ipads, well-trained teachers and supplies. But the people of Uganda were happy, hopeful, and dedicated to making a better life for their families. They were warm and friendly and ready to accept the outstretched hand of the health workers so everyone could have a Shot@Life.
Nancy Jones, Chairman
GFWC International Outreach Partnerships
POSTED IN: Global Health
Leave a Comment