Hello friends of ETH,
Long time no talk! Hope you are well.
Today we’d like to give an update on our Global Health Experiential Fellowship, which is currently underway and in the second week of its second session (July 12th - August 20th). While our second session Fellows are just beginning their work in Mpunde village, American students from the first session trip (May 31st - July 9th) returned home last week. Following their 6-week projects, first-session Fellows had lots to share about the work they were able to complete:
Malnutrition (University of Notre Dame & Uganda Christian University)
Malnutrition has persisted as a fact-of-life issue for much of Sub-Saharan Africa. However, malnutrition has far-reaching consequences for human capital, economic productivity, and national development overall. The UN World Food Program (WFP) reports that malnutrition is widespread and has since risen during the COVID-19 pandemic and many households are under immense strain to find food for their families (Loum, 2021). 2.2 million children under 5-years, 29 percent, suffer from stunting (low height-for-age) and chronic malnutrition (USAID, 2018). To begin addressing these deficits in Buyende district (ETH’s primary catchment area), Fellows on the malnutrition team put together a two-phase project focused on assessing need and providing nutritious food sources to communities. In the project’s research portion, a questionnaire was administered to 100 individuals in 10 different villages, giving the team a more informed understanding of nutritional deficiency in the region. Fellows collaborated with local officials and Village Health Teams (VHTs) to identify and locate this random sample of households. The second arm of the team’s intervention involved planting community vegetable gardens and providing seeds that could be used by 10-15 households in each of the 10 villages surveyed. In all, Fellows helped start over 100 small patch gardens in the chosen villages! With further cultivation of these patches and the sharing of seeds between households, the hope is that these sustainable sources of nutrition will continue to spread throughout the region.
"The most meaningful part of the experience was seeing the desire of the community members to be a part of the project. Every village and almost all of the households we went to were willing to answer our questions, and the households selected for the gardens were really committed to making small gardens near their house and care for the plants. This illustrated not only a desire for more nutritious vegetables in their diets, but also an incredibly welcoming environment for us to walk into. It made the whole project much more enjoyable because we felt that we were making a tangible difference and that the difference was felt in the community.” - Anoop Sunkara (University of Notre Dame ‘23)
Whereas the U.S. has recently witnessed a rapid growth in mental health resources, patients in low-middle-income countries like Uganda continue to struggle with ostracization and neglect as a result of cultural stigmas. In many communities in the Busoga region, it is believed that individuals with mental illnesses have been cursed or possessed, and that little can be done to help. For example, seizures in epileptic patients and abnormal behavior in schizophrenic patients are often left unattended because it is thought these ailments can be spread by touching.
To ascertain the prevalence of these beliefs in Buyende district, the mental health team administered surveys asking residents to share their views. Also working alongside local VHTs, the fellows gave 100 surveys in 10 different villages.
After analyzing the results, Fellows determined that a serious stigma did indeed exist against those with mental health disorders. Second session Fellows are now working closely in collaboration with villages and communities so that these disorders can be normalized and the affected have opportunities for treatment.
As of today, Friday, our second session teams have met with VHTs, started the first phases of their projects, and gotten acclimated to village life as best as they can. Here’s the latest from each:
Helminthic Infections (Washington University in St. Louis)
Completed pre-testing of a survey on knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) related to schistosomiasis and other parasitic worm infections
Started surveying randomly sampled households
Plan to survey over 300 households, as well as to conduct focus group discussions, over a 5-week period
Contraception & Family Planning (University of Michigan & Uganda Christian University)
Completed pre-testing of a survey on contraception and related attitudes
Started surveying randomly sampled households
Plan to survey 60 women in 6 different villages, host focus group discussions, and give educational presentations
Mental Health (Williams College, Ohio State University, & Uganda Christian University)
Met with VHTs to plan out a de-stigmatization campaign in the form of a theater competition
Consulted on project plans with ETH’s newly hired mental health specialist, Humza Mugogo
Plan to give a follow-up survey along with educational presentations
Weekend plans for the Fellows include hiking a nearby mountain and canoeing on the beautiful Lake Kyoga.
Please stay tuned for more news on our fellowship and thank you for your continued support! Contacts like you are vital to the work we do, each and every day.
If you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.