Advocacy awakens community in southern Uganda

13:06 Jul 2 2012 Kamwezi, Uganda

Located 10 kilometers from the porous Uganda-Rwanda border, Kamwezi Health Centre was the source of disappointment for the community in Kamwezi sub county in Kabale district, Uganda.

Among the several problems that kept the clinic from offering quality service was the shortage of staff and the great amount of patients. There were only 17 staff members of whom only eight were qualified health practitioners. Due to the fact that the health centre was located in a borderline region, large numbers of Rwandese flooded the clinic on a daily basis. As a result, the Ugandan community was not receiving the services entitled to them, and thus discouraged to seek treatment at the centre.

In order to face the problem with a sustainable plan of action, the Citizen Voice and Action (CVA) approach was implemented. A community gathering attended by service users and service providers was convened at the facility. They identified challenges to service delivery and made suggestions for improvement. Community members also exposed their concern that Ugadans were not using the clinic much due to the great amount of Rwandese.

As part of the action plan, it was agreed that community based organizations (CBO) were going to mobilize community members to go to the clinic for treatment. Another part of the plan was to take the issue of staff shortage to the local authorities by creating dialogue between the sub county and district level governments.

The initiative certainly stretched the community to be resourceful and exercise their rights. After about eight months since the first CVA meeting, the clinic had 29 staff members, and the people of Kamwezi were utilizing the health centre more frequently.

“Since the day of the community gathering, patients from within the sub county now come in great numbers especially when they get to know that the drugs have been delivered. Depending on the season, in a day we can work on more than 200 patients which was not the case before. I feel this gathering provided a platform for the community members to know that our services are primarily for them to benefit from and not anybody else,” said the clinical officer at the facility.

For this community in the extreme south of Uganda, the CVA approach served more than only bringing additional staff to the health centre. The CVA approach provided an outlet for the community to voice their opinions and thoughts, which, this time, got actually heard.
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