Too many children were dying – a Village Health Team in Uganda

Posted on April 29, 2014 by Jessica Nipp Hacker
Jessica Nipp Hacker

It’s World Malaria Week! Even as we raise money to jumpstart programming in Namibia, Lutheran malaria programs continue to change lives in other countries in Africa.  Here is a story about a Village Health Team from Uganda.

Onyait Michael lives in Uganda, in an area called Katakwi. “We used to bury so many people due to malaria,” he recalls, “especially children.”

The children in Katakwi were dying of malaria. The hospital was far away, and when children got sick, it was impossible to navigate the difficult roads on foot, to get medical help in time.  Parents didn’t have the education or the resources that they needed to keep their children safe. And too many children were dying.

LWF staff Emmanuel Emenyu center with VHTs who have received IEC materials

(Photo: Village Health Team members in Katakwi, Uganda celebrate their new malaria education materials.)
So when the Lutheran Malaria program in Uganda began, Onyait Michael volunteered to join a Village Health Team.  He and his fellow volunteers were trained in malaria prevention and control.  When they graduated, they received bicycles to help them travel from village to village in Katakwi to spread the word.

Uganda Project Officer Samuel Balamaga trains VHTs for web
(Photo: Volunteer Village Heath Team members receive malaria training from Lutheran World Federation project officer.)

Onyait’s team began right away to help equip their community with the knowledge of what malaria is, how it is transmitted, and how they can prevent malaria from attacking their loved ones. Onyait and the other members of the Village Health Team distribute insecticide-treated nets to the households in Katakwi, and they check in with their neighbors periodically to make sure the nets are being used and maintained correctly. The Village Health Team also sponsors community events to clear brush and remove areas of standing water, where mosquitoes breed.  They hold regular open clinics, where sick people can come to be tested for malaria and to receive medication right in their own village—and if a person is very sick, the team even makes house calls!

Money from the ELCA Malaria Campaign—money that you gave—paid for the training that Onyait Michael and his colleagues received.  It paid for the test kits, medicine and nets that they distribute to the people in their communities.  It paid for the bicycles that allow team members to bring health care into the villages and homes where it is most desperately needed.

Onyait Michael with bicycle for web
(Photo: Onyait Michael poses with the bicycle he uses to travel to surrounding villages to teach his neighbors about malaria.)

Onyait says, “we used to find it difficult to move from place to place to mobilize the community members. With the bicycles [that we received from the Lutheran program], now our work has been made very easy and we are able to reach every corner in every village to do our work. With this support, we are very determined to ensure that malaria is completely eliminated from our communities.”

The district of Katakwi has already begun to push toward that goal. Onyait is proud to say, “these activities have seen the cases of malaria and its associated complications go down. These days we hardly even hear of a child who is rushed to the hospital with a severe case of malaria.”

And children in Katakwi are no longer dying of a preventable and treatable disease.

Onyait wants you to know that your gifts are appreciated.  He says, “I and my colleagues are very thankful to the ELCA [Malaria Campaign] and Lutheran World Federation for all this support that they are giving to us. We are really very appreciative because malaria has been the number one killer of our people.”

Onyait and his Village Health Team are making malaria history in Uganda.  And working together with our companions in Africa, your gifts are helping to make it possible.  Thank you!