Flavia Nakato, a resident of Budhubirwa village in Bugulumbya Sub-County says that for decades their parish has had no health unit. Expectant mothers and other sick people have been trekking distances to access health services from far away from sub-counties, and according to Nakato, many were delivering babies on the roadside after failing to make it to the distant health centres.
Residents in several villages within Kamuli District have stopped waiting for the government to take services closer to them, and are now finding local solutions to their problems.
Flavia Nakato, a resident of Budhubirwa village in Bugulumbya
Sub-County says that for decades their parish has had no health unit. Expectant mothers and other sick people have been trekking distances to access health
services from far away from sub-counties, and according to Nakato, many were delivering babies on the roadside after failing to make it to the distant health centres.
The community has been crying out to the government to come to their
rescue in vain. According to the Ugandan government's health policy,
every parish is supposed to have a health unit. A Health Centre II facility,
serving a few thousand people, should be able to treat common diseases like
The unit is also supposed to be led by an enrolled nurse,
working with a midwife, two nursing assistants, and a health assistant. It runs
an out-patient clinic, treating common diseases and offering antenatal care.
However, very many parishes, mostly in rural districts, don’t have this health
“We had situations where mothers gave birth in swamps
on the way to the health centre...15 kilometres away. Children at times
miss out on vaccination when mothers fail to transport them. Most sick people
must trek this journey and as you have seen the transport network is also poor.
This is a critical challenge to our community,” Nakato says.
Patrick Walube, the chairperson of Budhubirwa village, notes
that after years of suffering, members of his community thought that there
was no solution and that the government had deserted them. Walube, however, attests that after receiving training from
Twaweza Uganda on how they could get locally grown solutions to their
challenges, they realized that they could lookout for an active
Using Participatory Action Research, Twaweza Uganda
working with Aids Education Group for Youth AEGY- a local non-government
organization trained change agents in several villages in Kamuli guiding them to
help other community members to map out their social challenges and find
possible solutions or look out for the responsible authorities who could offer
“It was a mentality issue. After several training sessions,
our mindset changed,” Walube said. Similarly, Emmanuel Omollo Wandera, a change agent in Budhubirwa
Village, notes that after several meetings, the community highlighted that
having a health centre was a pressing need to their community but district
authorities informed them that absence of land was one of the factors that had
impeded the possibility of constructing health facilities in the area.
Wandera adds that to address the challenge, the
residents decided to buy a one-acre piece of land at five
million Shillings. Each household contributed 10,000 Shillings on top of contributions from elected leaders and persons of authority. Wandera says that although the government had promised
to set up buildings, residents didn’t want to take chances and decided to
contribute building materials and labour for the first blocks to quicken the
“We have collected some money and we hope that soon we will
get the total sum we have planned for. With this process initiated, we can see
light at the end of the tunnel, and health services will soon reach our village. The days of our sick people trekking distances for simple treatments will be
over,” he added.
Away from Budhubirwa, residents in Bunama-Bugweri village in Namwendwa Sub-County have also
embarked on constructing staff quarters for the health workers and putting up
more blocks at Kinu Health Centre II to facilitate the quick upgrading of their
unit and a presence of health workers at the station.
Margret Namudiira, the LCI chairperson, says that in most cases, health workers are absent from the facility because they don’t have a place of abode nearby. She adds that the village
also aspires to have the unit upgraded so that they stop trekking long distances
and also bring more health services closer to their community.
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Namudiira shares that when they engaged the district
leadership they were told that the local government doesn’t have
enough funds for the specific activity. But, the community members decided to
be part of the solution and now, they have started making interlocking blocks to facilitate the construction of quarters for at least three staff and another
block to host additional clinics.
The chairperson, who is championing the move,
says the blocks are made voluntarily by the residents who gather at the sound of a
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Andrew Kaluto, the acting in charge of the health unit, notes
that Bunama-Bugweri village intervention will not only benefit residents at the
said village but its impact will be felt in more than 15 villages within Kamuli District in addition to those from Luuka.
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Parick Mugumira, a senior citizen, sees the development as a
game-changer for their community as they can work out on many of their problems
before crying out for help from the government. The 79-year-old notes that this
system helped communities to improve back in the day but the spirit had burnt out.
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Violet Alinda, Twaweza Uganda's Country Lead and Director of Voice and Participation, says
that achievements by the villages are a ray of hope indicating that
with Mindset change and community mobilization, residents can turn around most
of the social challenges in their community and propel sustainable development
and support service delivery.
Alinda, however, adds that the residents’ efforts should
also be supported by local leadership since their engagement is not
substituting roles and responsibilities of the government.
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Kamuli District Chairperson Maxwell Charles Mugude says that community mobilization is the way to go for many areas that have
lagged in development. He also believes that if communities are directly
engaged in finding their own solutions to the challenges they face, they will jealously protect and maintain public property and
facilities that offer services.