Namayingo’s inspired health workers motivate parents

Their work is anchored on Treat, Counsel, Monitor viral load and Refill ARVs for each and every client

By Joachim Buwembo
HIV, AIDS, mothers, mother to child transmission of HIV, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, Mother To Mother programme, mentors, UNICEF, Uganda, HIV positive mother
UNICEF Uganda/2021/Emorut
18 October 2021

Godfrey Samanya can rightly be called an elder, for he exhibits both age with wisdom. His is scientifically based wisdom. 

Samanya describes a typical case at Buyinja Health Centre IV where he is a counsellor and Linkage Facilitator: “I get a pregnant woman who is neither eating right nor enough. I get her husband’s phone number and engage him, explaining that to get a healthy baby, it will be much cheaper for him to be kind to his wife, ensure she eats well and caresses her belly than to buy oxygen if she faces difficult delivery.”

In these COVID-19 times, mention of buying oxygen is a terrible prospect after all the horror stories that did the rounds during the second wave. When Samanya has the man’s attention he explains why it is important that the expectant mothers feed well, gradually securing the man’s promise to cater for his wife better. 

It is not easy to play his role, but Samanya has been there and knows it. Now in his early fifties, he was the first man to have a vasectomy at Buyinja, Namayingo District’s Health Centre IV. That was in 2016 when he already had nine children with his wife and decided to take the bold step. His wife was so impressed that she too, almost unnecessarily, had a tubal litigation.

HIV, AIDS, mothers, mother to child transmission of HIV, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, Mother To Mother programme, mentors, UNICEF, Uganda, HIV positive mother
UNICEF Uganda/2021/Emorut

His workmate Mary Katandi, who is in his age bracket, is equally dynamic, and burning with passion for promoting safe motherhood. She was also an early tubal ligitation client at the hospital, and so doesn’t preach water while drinking wine. Mary describes the food values of the local crops easily grown by the local population, but they typically don’t consume. She cites the sad typical example of women selling eggs which they rarely eat, to get money for milling maize.

These health workers regularly undergo refresher sessions by Mother 2 Mother network and Baylor Uganda, in a maternal health services partnership with the hospital and supported by UNICEF. They in turn monitor, supervise and get reports from field teams of mentor mothers and peers all over Namayingo District. 

Most of these peer workers who exude confidence were once weak, vulnerable clients who were helped to overcome their problems and are now helping others overcome theirs. They include Auma Noeline whom we found working with teenage mothers, and herself is much younger than Katandi and Samanya. 

“A Baylor person spotted me during an ante-natal visit long ago,” she says with laughter because her ‘long ago’ was just last year in 2020, but she is already transformed. “I now work with adolescent girls, monitoring them, ensuring whoever misses her period reports to the clinic and I hold weekly meetings with them.”

Noeline also ensures that once a young mother delivers, she adheres to all the post-natal care processes including of course, the baby’s immunizations.     

HIV, AIDS, mothers, mother to child transmission of HIV, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, Mother To Mother programme, mentors, UNICEF, Uganda, HIV positive mother
UNICEF Uganda/2021/Emorut

Higher up in the health workers’ network are the real professionals. Any day in the Buyinja Health Centre IV compound, you cannot miss spotting Resty Musasizi in her smart white uniform, the miniature Uganda flag on the sleeve moving up and down purposefully around the hospital complex. She is the midwife in charge of the maternity, an extremely busy section of the hospital.
 
Following Resty for an hour around the Buyinja complex gives a comprehensive picture of the situation at the health centre. The young midwife gets out of a management meeting, drops off a report at the facility in-charge’s office, marches briskly to the maternity section of the crowded hospital – and makes a quick inspection of the entire place, getting verbal reports from midwives and nurses, taking quick notes in some places. She checks on two prematurely born babies on the incubators and explains how the machines work and how they are managed amidst shortages.

At the delivery room, Resty first ensures the three women in labour are decently covered before she lets me look in as she soothes and encourages them, the kind smile clearly seen in her eyes above her mask. Spicing the tour are the double labels on the doors that show the spirit of improvisation. Where a permanent label says ‘Gents Washroom’ for example, a temporary handwritten on reads ‘Records’ and behind the door you find a neat room of meticulously arranged files.

Extracting from the digital records, we learn that in the year ending September 2021, 170 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers were diagnosed HIV positive at the facility and started on Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART). Of these 119 are active on treatment, the rest having transferred to other care centres. Of these on treatment, 88 are breastfeeding while 31 are still pregnant. The good news is that all the babies born were negative and remained so.
Two babies have died of other causes, one of the two had transferred to another care centre, while negative. Resty reels off the team’s Roles and Must activities in one breath as: Treat, Counsel, Monitor viral load and Refill ARVs for each and every client, always calling them up through mentor mothers for appointments, nurture family support and link them to other service providers.

The Together for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHS) programme is a joint United Nations programme supported by UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO with funding from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) in eight districts - Amudat, Bududa, Gulu, Kampala, Katakwi, Isingiro, Namayingo and Yumbe.