BY VICTORIA PRICE
Health educators through Viva’s partner network, CRANE, in Uganda, are being equipped with life-saving knowledge on maternal and child health, which they are passing on to local communities through their peer-to-peer activities.
Eighteen peer educators in two districts in Kampala have now reached over 1,000 parents and their children. With increased maternal and child heath education provided by CRANE, they are now joining medically trained staff in their community outreach in order to offer families personal support and guidance.
The peer educators have recently received training on the basics of immunisation among children and women – promoting the routine vaccines that take place across Uganda.
This training brought up some poignant and prevalent challenges faced within the two districts in which the peer educators work. The biggest issue peer educators face is the widespread negative attitude surrounding vaccinating children in general, due to the political and social influence against immunisation.
False information about vaccines spread on social media – such as rumours started by anti-vaccine groups that certain batches don’t meet particular standards – can easily lead to family disagreements surrounding immunisation.
This, alongside ingrained cultural and traditional beliefs about the effectiveness of vaccines, result in very complex and tricky conversations for the peer educators to navigate when promoting immunisations in the community.
But, as a result of these recent training days, the group have committed to continue to warn parents about the dangers of not vaccinating their children; going door-to-door explaining the advantages of immunisation and encouraging all those they chatted to with the benefits of immunisation for the whole community.
This renewed understanding of the reality and importance of child immunisations and other health issues is blessing and transforming the lives and livelihoods of whole communities.
The peer educators are part of a project called ‘Beginnings’, a maternal and child health project run by CRANE, in partnership with Viva. It was created in order to address poor health, and inadequate health practices among families in Namuwongo and Bwaise, focusing on children below five years of age and their mothers through peer-to-peer activities.
Though the focus is on supporting mothers and babies, men are also receiving support so that whole families can flourish together.
Earlier this year, the peer educators also received training on chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and sleep apnea, so that families may know how to detect and prevent attacks happening amongst children in the community.
Most of the participants at the training had no idea about the signs and symptoms of various chronic respiratory diseases, how they are managed and the different triggers. A key learning for all of the participants, which they will now be sharing with local communities, was that good hygiene is a vital element in reducing these triggers.
In the future, CRANE hopes to see one church in both areas running a parent and toddler group similar to those we see in churches around the UK. The difference in Uganda is that these groups would also provide the opportunity for the peer health educators to teach about childcare, parenting skills and self-care, as well as offering basic health checks to monitor the healthy development of children.
The creation of these spaces would also encourage further relationship building between CRANE peer health educators and professional health practitioners such as nurses and social workers.
Please pray for this project that:
- the group of peer educators would feel supported in their important role within their communities, and are able to share their advice with families freely
- the idea of the parent and toddler groups would be well received by both churches and encouraged to flourish
- the resources needed in order to keep new toddler groups going would be sustained long enough for participants to feel safe, supported and valued