Monthly Archives: February 2019

Equipped with vocational skills for income security

It was jubilation at Supri Training Centre in Juba on the 25th of January 2019 when 114 refugee students (90 male and 14 female) graduated after successful completion of a 6-month intensive vocational skills and numeracy and literacy training programme. The training was offered by the South Sudan programme of Action Africa Help International (AAH-I) in partnership with South Sudan People’s Organization and Supri Training Centre.

The graduation was graced by the National Director of Education Kur Puenyi who was also the Guest of Honour, Director for Quality Education Jubek State Peter Morbek , AAH-I South Sudan Country Director and representatives from UNESCO, UNHCR and its partner organizations and other stakeholders. The day came at a time when the country has high hopes for long term peace following the signing of the peace agreement. Peace will enable the South Sudanese community to start rebuilding their lives and as such the demand for technical skills is expected to rise. Echoing the same, the AAH SS Acting Country Director Richard Ofwono emphasized the need for the graduates to put to practice their acquired skills as it is only practice that makes perfect.

Besides certificates, auto-mechanics graduates also received mechanical toolkits while tailoring graduates received a kit comprising a heavy-duty sewing machine, fabric, scissors and assorted thread. “The situation in Juba is hard and it is very difficult to find a job. Now that I am a trained motor mechanic, I have a better chance of getting a job since I have a skill to offer to market,” said Rebecca Andrew, who graduated with a certificate in auto-mechanics. Rebecca was the only female student in a class of 10. “I plan to open a small workshop to fix vehicles. I know I will need other tools and equipment, but this is a very good start. I will grow from where AAH-I has taken me,” said graduate Elia Duku Geofrey.

For Sudanese refugees who grew up in an Arab speaking environment, relocating into South Sudan, which recognizes English as the official language comes with complications. Through this project, AAH-I in partnership with the Supri Training Centre engaged 73 Arabic-speaking refugees in a 6-month English literacy training programme. “Though a proportion of the population speak some classic Arabic, it has been difficult for me to engage with English speakers. Enrolling for language studies was necessary to overcome communication limitations. Now I fit better in the South Sudanese society. This skill will indeed create new opportunities for me,” said Abdllazim Ahmed, who graduated with an English beginner’s certificate.

The vocational and language skills training are part of the Livelihoods, Environment and Energy Conservation project targeting the refugee population in Gorom and Juba. The project is funded by UNHCR. The specific objectives are to build self-reliance and improve livelihoods, to protect the environment and shared natural resources, to promote peaceful coexistence between refugees and the host community and to improve access to safe fuel and energy.

Campaigning for a malaria-free community

At least 80 mothers with children under five years attended a malaria awareness session in Lufubu catchment area, Mwansabombwe district, Zambia on 8 February 2019. The objective of the session was to guide participants in identifying the symptoms of malaria for their children under 5 years.

“Always have your children sleep under an insecticide treated net all night throughout the year. Look out for signs such as child’s inactiveness or loss of appetite and symptoms such as high or frequent fevers, vomiting, diarrhoea joint pains and headaches. Don’t wait until your child is critically ill before going to a health centre for treatment with an anti-malaria drug. Remember that traditional doctors do not have the malaria reagents or testing kits to conduct a rapid test in their vicinity. Expectant mothers should always remember to correctly uptake the three dose of intermittent preventive treatment (such as Fansidar) and generally accept indoor residual house spraying as an elimination method,” urged Community Based Volunteer Jackson Mwansa as he addressed the mothers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) 2017 World Malaria Report indicates that 90% of malaria cases in 2016 were in the African region. Of the 91 countries reporting indigenous malaria cases in 2016, 15 countries – all in sub-Saharan Africa, except India – carried 80% of the global malaria burden. The same report indicates that 3 million of Zambia’s entire population of approximately 17 million were diagnosed with malaria in 2016, with about 7% of the cases progressing to severe malaria.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the Zambia programme of Action Africa Help International (AAH-I) is implementing a malaria-free project in Mawansabombwe and Chienge Districts of the Luapula Province under The Programme for the Advancement of Malaria Outcomes (PAMO) consortium.

“We partnered with AAH-I and kicked off this project in June 2018 to complement the National Malaria Elimination Centre’s goal of eliminating malaria by 2021. In our previous efforts we noticed a gap in cohesive sensitization in the community. With AAH-I we have been able to reach at least 56,000 people, including in remote places. At least 56,000 people have been reached since June 2018,” said Environmental Health Officer Martine Nyambe from the Ministry of Health working under Mukamba Rural Health Centre.

Martin Mulenga, from the government-run Lufubu Rural Health Centre adds, “Only 29 patients tested positive for malaria out of the 78 tested in the last week of January 2019. The cases are progressively reducing. Our coverage of communities has also increased from 91% to 94% in 2018.”

Also present at the session was Chibanga village headman Bernard Chola. “I emphasize on prevention measures such as keeping the environment clean to avoid mosquitoes breeding areas, and the correct use of insecticide treated nets in my community. The prevention messages we hear at these meetings have contributed to reduced malaria-related deaths.” The project works with local leaders to pass malaria-free messages during traditional ceremonies, village meetings and during the formation of community bylaws that includes malaria-related bylaws.

The session concluded with children under 5 years having their weight measured, and a rapid test for malaria for some of them. Other organizations under the PAMO consortium are the US Presidential Malaria Initiative, PATH, JHPIEGO, John Hopkins Centre for Communication Programs, Zambia Center for Applied Health Research and Development and BroadReach Institute for Training & Education.

Update on energy project in Uganda

An increasing population coupled with fuel wood scarcity and over dependency on it for energy supply led to an energy crisis at the Kyangwali refugee settlement in Uganda in 2013. This was as a result of gradual depletion of vegetation cover. Beyond the environmental challenges, social issues such as women being exposed to abuse and violence as they travelled long distances in search of new energy sources came to the fore.

To address this, the Uganda programme of Action Africa Help International (AAH-I) initiated a project to promote alternative energy sources using materials such as maize cobs, stalks and husks, vegetable peelings to make briquettes for use on energy-saving cooking stoves. With funding support from UNHCR, the goal of the project is to increase access to more sustainable, safer and cleaner energy for refugees and the host community at the Kyangwali refugee settlement.

The community embraced the idea and project participants were identified from different villages. To encourage uptake and quality production, AAH Uganda facilitated learning exchange visits and training on briquette production between 2014 and 2018, and provided briquette producers with 8 manual machines. There has since been a gradual enhanced capacity for briquette production, adoption of alternative sources of fuel and improved involvement and participation in environmental conservation.

Alphonsine Muhawenimaana clearly captures the positive impact the project is having on these communities. She is the group leader of Weka Hakiba Women’s Group, one of the briquette producers that has benefitted from the project. Alphonsine is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo who arrived in Uganda in 2009 and now lives in Kyebitaka village within the Kyangwali Refugee settlement. On average Weka Hakiba’s 20 members produce 300kgs of briquettes weekly and sell each bag at approximately USD $16 per bag . There are five other briquette producing groups. Cumulatively the 6 briquette groups produce 1 tonne of briquettes per month. ​

The project gains to date include:

  • Increased adoption on the use of biomass as renewable and profitable energy in Kyangwali.
  • Improved household income: Collectively, briquette groups produce an average of 600kgs per week (approximately 2.5 tonnes per month). On average, the income among the briquette producing group members has increased from USD $ 1 to USD $ 1.8 per day. In addition, Nyamiganda groups have formed village savings and loan associations to support their members access to finance.
  • Skills transfer through which the trained briquette producers train other members of the community. At least 42 briquette-making groups and more than 500 community members have been trained.
  • Increased awareness of the need for tree planting and environmental conservation by protecting the available vegetation cover. The demand for the briquettes has also raised the demand for tree planting for species used in the binding process during briquette production.