Men, women and children wait to be attended to under a tent at a health centre at the Kyangwali refugee settlement. These 54 men and women members of the host community and refugees living at the refugee settlement in Hoima District, Western Uganda.
With an estimated 1.3 million refugees seeking safety on its territory, Uganda is Africa’s largest refugee hosting country. Although refugees should have similar access to quality health care services to that of their host population, many cannot acquire them due to economic and geographical obstacles. Throughout 2017, Uganda received refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi and South Sudan. Women and children represent about 84% of the new arrivals.
To address this issue, Uganda country programme of Action Africa Help International (AAH-I) organized a 3-day (27th to 29th August 2018) surgical camp, which was implemented with the support of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Medical Training Initiative (MIT).
“The initiative is an effort to bridge the gap in accessibility of specialized surgical interventions for displaced populations and the host community. We conducted an awareness campaign prior to the camp in all sectors of the settlement in order to identify sensitive cases and treat them accordingly. It is essential to bring specific health care services to vulnerable communities” says AAH Uganda Health Coordinator Wycliffe Matende. According to UNHCR, the need for curative medical care is greatest in the immediate aftermath of displacement.
There are currently 5 health centres set up across the Kyangwali settlement where refugees can access primary health care services. While basic health care needs are attended to on site, comprehensive interventions such as surgical operations are available at referral hospitals such as the Hoima Referral Hospital, situated at 85 km from the settlement.
“Despite the available medical facilities on site, the demand in health care services almost tripled with the significant influx of refugees and asylum seekers. We opened an operating theatre at the Kyangwali Health Centre on 28 March 2018 in order to better respond to the health issues and to decrease the number of referrals to the regional referral hospital. A total of 16 AAH-I and MTI personnel currently work at the theatre,” continues Wycliffe.
“We successfully carried out a total of 249 operations between March and September. 244 of the operations were performed on women, and most of the operations were caesarean sections. The establishment of the theatre was instrumental in the provision of health services to the community” says AAH Uganda Medical Officer Dr Gabriel Tubo.
AAH Uganda began operations in 1993, extending emergency health to over 80,000 refugees originating from South Sudan. Since then, its programmes have delivered services in 5 refugee settlements using an integrated, comprehensive community approach with the support of the local government and other development partners.