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In Kamuli, Residents Stopped Waiting for Gov’t to Construct Health Centres

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.
Margret Namudiira, the Bunama-Bugweri LC 1 chairpeson displaying some the interlocking blocks made resident to enable the consult staff quarters at Kinu Health Centre II

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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 malaria.

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 unit.

“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 solution.

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 remedies.

“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 process.

“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 drum.  

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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.       

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