The Norman Transcript

February 27, 2014

Ugandan nurse speaks to club about health care, sanitation issues

By Doris Wedge
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Oklahoma advocates who serve through the Tulsa-based Bushenyi Alliance of Rural Health and Development are addressing lack of medical care, the need for good water, little education on health care and sanitation in Uganda.

Sister Ephrance, a nurse and program manager in Uganda, was in Norman last week to visit with local groups that provide support to BARHD.

BARHD’s influence is seen through the work of several medical clinics established in the rural Bushenyi area of southwest Uganda, as well as funding many orphaned students to get an education beyond the elementary level provided by the Ugandan government.

“We assist and empower communities on raising their standard of living and providing primary health care,” Ephrance said. (“Sister” is an honorific, not a religious title.)

Having worked in health care in Uganda for 27 years, Ephrance has seen major improvement in this area of the Bushenyi region since BARHD was formed in 2006.

“We have had great success,” she said of the four medical clinics now in operation. One of those clinics is named “Dr. B Clinic” in honor of the late Norman physician Dr. Hal Belknap. The clinics served nearly 24,000 people last year.

Signs of growth in providing medical services are new maternity clinics.

“Most mothers give birth in their homes, but the clinics provide a safe and sanitary place for the birth and care of the baby and mother,” Ephrance said.

There is an ongoing need for medical supply funds, she said, and they welcome visiting Americans who bring medical and dental expertise to supplement their small staff.

Clean water is being made possible through wells dug through the support of BARHD and other agencies. Without the wells, residents use ponds and streams for water, the same ponds and streams used by cattle in the farming area.

Mosquitos thrive in that environment. Norman resident Amy Williams, president of the BARHD board, delivered the 10,000th mosquito net to a Ugandan mother on a trip to Uganda last summer.

A net hung from the ceiling of the home can protect a family for several years, she said. BARHD partners with HisNets, another charity with Norman ties, to provide the nets.

Education on nutrition and sanitation are foundational elements to the program for people who largely live in huts with thatch roofs. Replacing thatch roofs with iron sheets is a major step toward better sanitation and health, Ephrance said, and families — most of whom work in farming or the cattle business — are struggling to be able to upgrade their homes.

Mothers are being provided with training on nutrition, another factor in raising overall health of the communities.

“The women are becoming more informed about nutrition and family planning,” Ephrance said. “Before BARHD, many women were dying of infection.”

Because the child death rate was so high, women often continued to have children for security in their old age, she said.

BARHD patrons support 275 secondary students and 12 students in university studies. For a $400 donation, an orphaned student is provided room and board and books for one year, Williams said.

Accompanying Ephrance was Kulabako Phillipa, program administrator, who is working in the education system to establish vocational training for students who do not go to high school or university.

“Children leaving school at the eighth grade usually end in manual labor jobs,” she said, “and parents urge their girls to marry young. We want to embark on counseling, career guidance, to help them be able to support themselves and their families.”

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