Thursday, August 13, 2009

A review of 10 days with TAMTAM in Gulu

children caring for children: a legacy of the LRA in Gulu?

The evidence of two decades of LRA terror both stares you in the face and bubbles under the surface in Gulu. (The Lord's Resistance Army is a group that murdered many in Northern Uganda and abducted children to make child soldiers and sex slaves, now working in Sudan)

IDP camp in Gulu town

Many have horrific stories full of fear from personal experiences during the LRA terrors. IDP (internally displaced peoples) camps are seen everywhere tightly packed for group safety, in Gulu town and on the roads around Gulu town, schools were closed and health declined.

Today, many NGOs still operate in the area and the health networks are sufficiently developed - each village nominates a person to be its health information volunteer; this person is trained, sometimes to do immunizations, or talk about malaria, etc. TAMTAM worked closely with some wonderful Village Health Teams (VHTs) and youth leaders to disperse 1300 bednets to a very needy population, still struggling to return to a life of normalcy and independence.

A photo tour of TAMTAM's work in Gulu...

TAMTAM's bednets: the best in the biz! Nets are coated with insecticide that lasts 3 years, and net holes are small to prevent mosquitoes from entry. Note the different colors of rope, corresponding to the different distribution interventions

VHTs receive malaria training from Doctor Samuel and learn about bednet distribution interventions TAMTAM hopes to test at KAIROS health and community development center

The distribution of nets took place in community meeting places, often under a large tree, in a school yard or in the market. The village would gather and men and women would inevitably separate themselves.

In one site, 300 people packed in an open air community space to pick up nets. It was overflowing with people!

Here, Goretti, a VHT gives one of 4 intervention messages

A woman and child take their new bednet

five women begin what may be a long walk home with their bednets. We learned as we did home installations of bednets that some villagers travel from an hour away to a bednet distribution site.

After the nets are distributed, Thomas, Albert and Charles, several village health team members divide up the home installation lists by location: some will head into the IDP camps to do up to 30 installations in 2 days, while others will see 5 homes deep in the bush over 2 days.

inside a home, two children play while a new bednet is being installed by a VHT.

So that's a quick tour of TAMTAM's work in Gulu. 1,300 bednets distributed. Not too bad for 10 days' work. Many thanks to our dedicated VHTs, youth leaders and the staff at KAIROS!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Operation Gulu: Distribution and Installation Complete

Villagers wait patiently for their names at the Pageya parish distribution
After 9 days in Gulu District, the TAMTAM team has dropped down in all 6 parishes of the Koro Sub-county. With the leadership and guidance of Mr. Christopher and Dr. Beatrice from Kairos, much travel and coordination with 14 youth leaders and Village Health Team members, and the facilitation of local government officials, brand new nets have reached over 1,300 households. It has been an exciting time for the team, to see our many data files come to life as thousands of people gathered to receive nets. Our nets went out with malaria information and specific messaging about proper care and installation. With this distribution in Gulu, we also hope to learn about the effect of certain messaging on the use of the net in homes. The final follow-up phase will begin in early September, spearheaded by Ash.

LEFT: Curious neighbors watch a net installation, RIGHT: Village health worker, Alfred, installs a new TAMTAM net

We have learned a lot in Gulu and look forward to working there in the future. A job well done by all of our partners and cheers to all the kind people we met. In the meantime, plans are being hatched for a distribution through Kairos health clinic's weekly immunisation day...

TAMTAM team (Paul, Ash, Eric, Jasmine, Esther) with the distribution and installation team (Mr. Christopher, Youth leaders Chris, Samuel, and Goretti, and Village Health Worker Alfred).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ash and Jeff on the ground!

Both Ash Gupta and Jeff Grosz have arrived in Uganda as of today! The team is excited to welcome them to the TAMTAM team. Ash was put to work immediately and has made the rounds at Ntenjeru and now here in Gulu. Jeff has been here for mere hours- his travel is to come! We also bid a fond farewell to Meredith and Lekha- you will be missed in Uganda!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Day 1 of distribution: Labwoch Parish

Today we started our distributions in Labwoch Parish. We were both eager to get the nets out, and a bit apprehensive about the problems that might arise. Would people come from the villages to the meeting? Would many expect nets who were not assigned to nets? Was there something we hadn’t anticipated?

The first sign of trouble was our incredibly late start – a sign of trouble, fortunately, only for those uninitiated with African time. As we readied ourselves, people kept arriving and when they did, waited patiently. Speeches were made on malaria and bed net care, on self-reliance, and then nets (and a large net transport bag too) were distributed.

Following distribution, some stayed to argue their cases for receiving a net and a protocol was decided. Extra nets went to pregnant women, families with young children, the sick, and the elderly. Once established, few could argue the logic and those that did not receive a net left with without complaint. We gave out 132 nets today and can count the day a huge success!!