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Refugees and host communities commend improved health workers’ attitude in Northern Uganda

maternal and child health for refugees
© UNICEF Uganda/2018/Sibiloni
A pregnant woman chats with a health worker during an antenatal care visit at Ocea Health Centre IV in Arua District
By Catherine Ntabadde Makumbi

Apollo Gatluak,30, a South Sudanese refugee is seated in a waiting shade at Ocea Health Centre IV in Arua District with his 1 year old daughter.

Gatluak has brought her daughter to see a doctor. Asked where the mother of the child is, he says, “My wife is at home. I decided to bring my daughter myself because I can easily explain to the doctors the symptoms she is experiencing. I am her father and as such it is my responsibility to bring her to the health centre.”

A father of 6 children, two of whom were born in Uganda says “the services here are so good. The health workers treat us well. When one is sick, you come, see a doctor and they send you to the laboratory.”
Adding, “The health workers welcome us whenever we come. They are friendly and eager to serve us. All the services are free of charge.”  In his community, Gatluak always encourages his fellow men to come along with their wives to the health centres and never to allow children walk to the facilities by themselves.

Ocea Health Centre IV is among hundreds of health facilities in West Nile that have benefited from the SIDA funded Improving Maternal, Newborn and Child Health through the “Improving Maternal, Newborn and Child Health through Integrated Approaches” project. SIDA extended the grant to UNICEF.
Among others, the project aims to improve capacity of health facilities and providers to deliver an integrated package of quality essential Maternal New-born Child Health services to host and refugee communities.

Grace Draru (not real names) aged 17 and a mother of a 1 month baby says when she was raped on her way from South Sudan to Uganda, she rushed to Ocea Health Centre where the health workers tested her for HIV and Syphilis which all turned out negative She continued to access services which has helped her to have a healthy baby.

Draru who is in foster care is very grateful for the professionalism and care of the health workers. “I was counselled and given tablets that will keep the pregnancy intact. Today I have come to immunize my baby for the second time. The health workers always tell us to come early and they give us good advice on how to take care of ourselves when pregnant, how to take care of our babies,” she says while smiling. “I am very happy and comfortable with the health centre. The health workers are good,” she hastens to add.

Joyce Yangi, also a South Sudanese refugee aged 20, is expecting her first child and has visited the health five times. “All the times I have come to the health centre, the health workers have treated me well. They test you to establish the sickness and then provide proper treatment. I am pleased with the services and knowledge I have acquired about pregnancy, the nutritious foods to eat and the fact that I should not do a lot of housework,” Yangi explains.

Evelyn Mono a national of Nebbi District says all her four children have been delivered at the health centre. She says the health workers’ attitude towards patients has greatly improved which has resulted into the increased number of deliveries. Mono was among over 60 women attending a public health education session at Nyaravur Health Centre III.

Keren Ayiorwoth also a national in Nebbi and a mother of 6 says the health workers freely interact with the patients. She adds that the health workers are calm when attending to them. What excites her most is that at a government health facility, expectant mothers receive mama (dignity) kits for free unlike in the private profit making health facilities. “Here you get soap, kaveera (plastic sheeting), basin, mosquito nets, baby sheets. All free of charge. At the private facilities, you have to buy everything,” Ayiorwoth explains.

The Nebbi acting district health officer (DHO) Patricia Okumu and Arua assistant DHO confirmed that the support extended to the sub region has enhanced the health workers’ capacity including how to better manage and attend to patients.

The other support in the region included training, supportive supervision and mentorship of health providers, procurement and distribution of essential MNCH commodities and medical equipment; strengthening the supply chain management at all levels using mTrac – a software to track the supply stock out and availability, improving health facilities infrastructure, including improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene facilities and services; infection control measures and innovative approaches to supporting lighting and electricity in labour rooms, support to establishment and functionality of a surge model for emergency response, strengthening referral system from communities to health facilities and between health facilities and supporting the implementation of the community care for mothers and new-borns and WASH interventions.

At Ocea, UNICEF has constructed and equipped a 10-bed maternity ward including provision of three delivery beds.



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