The Uganda Red Cross Society in partnership with UNICEF Uganda have activated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) promotion interventions to save lives of people, following the outbreak of cholera in many rural communities in Eastern Uganda. The affected districts include Budaka, Iganga, Namayingo, Sironko, Butaleja and Tororo in Eastern Uganda.
Asan Kigenyi, 50 years old, and his wife Jalia Nalongo, 40 years are residents of Nankone village in Budaka Town Council. They had 12 children but 3 died in the initial stages of the cholera outbreak in June, 2016. The trio were buried on the same day, at the same burial ground. The death of his three children has since left Kigenyi in unexplainable pain. “I have lived life the same way all my life, but the death of my three children has made me change a lot.
I am now very strict because from what I have tested, it is true, Cholera is real!” Kigenyi and Jalia are peasant farmers; they grow maize and ground nuts for domestic consumption and sometimes sell off some to raise income to meet other basic needs like paraffin and soap. For all their life, they had never planned to save any money to support them in case of an emergency. When Kigenyi sells anything, he uses the money to buy local brew.
Kigenyi dreads the day the tragedy happened. Recalling in pain, he says that his deceased children had diarrhea, vomiting, red eyes and they couldn’t eat anything. He had no money to take them to the nearest health centre, leave alone the hospital! However, when the situation worsened, the neighbors rushed them to a clinic where they were feared to have contracted cholera. They were referred to Budaka Health Center IV, where they were put in the cholera isolation center. The medical team tried their best, nut it was too late. They passed on.
Dr. John Matovu, the District Health Officer, noted that they have registered 194 cholera victims and out of these, 13 have died. “Cholera is a serious, acute infectious disease which affects both children and adults. It remains a global threat to public health and a key indicator of lack of social development. Roughly about 28,000 to 142,000 people die of cholera world-wide” he added.
The Uganda Red Cross Society, in partnership with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, have activated strong WASH interventions to curb the scourge. Massive sensitization has been carried out to educate people about Cholera and how it can be prevented. IEC materials bearing behavioral change messages have been shared in languages the locals understand and intentional practical activities have been conducted to enable a “hands on experience” with the rural communities in order for them to adopt the new behavior for good health. “We have been doing community sensitizations with support from UNICEF. We have also given out tools to support families as they construct latrines as well as practice good hygiene.
They have received hoes, ropes, spades, hand washing facilities, soap and water treatment tablets; we have also sent out our volunteers to individual homes to teach household members how to use these tools as well as coach them on how to maintain proper hygiene and sanitation. We want to see a cholera-free community at the end of this quarter” says Vincent Odoki, the URCS Branch Manager Budaka sub-region.
Kigenyi’s family was among those reached in Budaka Town Council. Special focus was put on constructing a latrine, plate stand, hand washing facility (tippy tap), and the general hygiene at home, which was poor. The family received a jerrycan, water treatment tablets, tolls for digging a latrine, cholera-related literature and they were taught how to live in a clean environment in order for them to remain healthy.
On a daily basis, before going to the garden, Jalia cleans her house, outdoor kitchen, compund and leaves her home tidy. “I am the wife in this home and now take lead in hygiene promotion for my people to be safe. I don’t want to lose any more people” she smiles.
Kigenyi has grown old and weak. He delights in seeing his younger children grow to support him in future when he can’t work anymore. He has so much hope that if they are to die, it won’t be due to cholera. “We are taking hygiene seriously so that we raise these children into healthy people who will support us as we grow older. My healthy children will look after me. We will not die of cholera because we now know its cause and how we can avoid it”, he adds.
Many families in Budaka have taken on good hygiene and sanitation practices. The Cholera treatment center in Nansanga has no cases of admission now. “We last received Cholera patients one month ago. We don’t have anyone now,” says Wilber Bunywere, the in-charge of Nansanga |Health Centre III Cholera Isolation Center in Budaka District.
While giving out hygiene and sanitation kits, URCS targeted homes and public places. These included health centers which receive many patients yet lack such tools. Among those supported and who now have an active WASH facility is Budaka Health Centre IV. The mothers who come for maternity services feel happy washing their hands after visiting the hospital latrine. “We missed such an important hand washing facility here. We receive about 60 mothers a day and now we are sure they won’t suffer from cholera and diarrheal diseases. Thank you Red Cross and UNICEF,”says Nasur Masaba, the in-charge at Budaka Health Center IV.