Dependence on bureaucratic systems anywhere can be troubling, but dependence on governmental health agencies in Uganda for the provision of supplies is maddening. Though Suubi has (a surprising amount of) enthusiastic support from the sub-county and district health offices which confer some supplies, these are not always on hand. Each month, Suubi holds an Outreach Day to expand services to outlying villages who would likely otherwise likely not visit our health center. But for the past few months, each time our director or in-charge has attempted to retrieve necessary governmental goods for these Outreach Days, they have been unable to furnish us with what we need.
Nurse Bonnie opens the doors to our Maternal and Child Care Day!
Instead of reveling in this frustration or spending far beyond our budget for the April Outreach, we evolved this month’s Outreach into something different. We went back to our roots—the true focus of and inspiration behind Suubi lies in improving maternal and child healthcare in the region. Though Suubi provides low-cost services every day, on Wednesday April 8th Suubi hosted a Maternal and Child Care Day offering free antenatal care for pregnant mothers, free checkups and medicine for children, and free immunizations. 63 children received examinations and medicine and 72 received a round of immunizations. Additionally, 70 pregnant women obtained free antenatal check-ups and drugs, which more than doubled the number of mothers who’ve accessed these services since Suubi’s inception.
Suubi Midwife Nepoline during one of 70 antenatal visits
For the first time, Suubi used strictly its own resources to mobilize the community instead of accessing the government VHTs (village health team). Each Suubi Woman rallied her neighbors, family members, and friends by giving them small slips of paper which contained the relevant information for the day. Mukisa brought announcements to local churches and mosques to publicize over the holiday weekend. Our ambulance driver spent Tuesday riding around the villages with a pre-recorded message blasting on a megaphone. These tactics were cost-effective, community-based, and brought together more women and children than I possibly imagined would come.
The brains and heart behind Suubi, Mr. Bernard Mukisa.
With so many young mothers together in one place we also held a forum discussion, led by two of our spirited and knowledgeable Suubi Women, for pregnant women to discuss their needs, problems, and experiences. They talked together for hours in an open and accepting environment. They expressed their desires for supportive husbands and compassionate midwives, affordable treatment and comprehensive care. After the success of this dialogue, our team eagerly brainstormed ways to continue providing psycho-social support for pregnant women in the community. With the new Budondo Community Hall set to open in the next month, it will be home to a regular discussion group for these women. Additionally, we hope to hold sensitization seminars for young fathers on their roles and responsibilities to their children and families.
Forum for pregnant women, led by our amazing Suubi Women
I’ve always vaguely recognized that motherhood is possibly the most thankless and demanding responsibility a person can endure. But living in Budondo and witnessing the tireless effort that women put into caring for their large families has been humbling. The work is hard, but the community here is strong and the struggle is not isolating. As mothers around the world do, they make considerable sacrifices for healthy babies and nourished children. I’m keen to watch this program grow into something beautiful and to watch Suubi more deeply develop its reputation as a hub of love, trust, and compassion for women and children.
Baby Praise is unhappy now, but this minute of pain will improve her lifelong health!