Many of the diseases and injuries we see in the slum communities are easily preventable. In a number of instances, simple health education could have stopped a disease from spreading, or an injury from occurring – we have seen a number of babies and young children suffer burns as a result of being left to play around a cooking stove which is sitting unprotected in the corner of a small slum house.
Primary Health Care aims to teach the adults in the community about issues such as hygiene, sexual health, safety, first aid and managing illness. This training enables parents to take ownership for the health of their families and improve children’s well-being in the long term and is carried out with the Community Groups and in small-group settings, as well as with children during Rising Stars sessions.
We also intervene in emergency medical cases where lives are at risk and the family and community have no money for treatment; but we look to do preventative work wherever possible as this is the most sustainable option.
We regularly come in contact with malnourished children while spending time in the slums. The degree of malnutrition often varies, but the causes are frequently the same. Financial constraints and the pressures of life often lead parents to buy the most cost effective, but not very nutritious foods. An additional reason we find children in this state is if they suffer from a prolonged illness, this often diminishes their weight to such a degree that they require help to regain lost weight as their family cannot afford the extra food needed.
Each week we run a Nutrition Programme where we provide high protein ‘porridge’ ingredients (millet flour, soya flour, ground silver fish) to each of these children’s mamas. This mix is something that mamas buy themselves once our direct involvement is not needed. We aim to not only feed the children, we also educate the mamas on the issues that perpetuate the cycle of malnutrition so that they can keep their families healthy. This training also occurs through our Community Groups, which enables Mamas to share good advice with their neighbours, adding to the work of preventing malnutrition. In addition to this, we partner with a nutrition unit in Mulago Hospital that provides more in depth medical support and training for families with particularly malnourished children.