In this country we are constantly bombarded with (sometimes conflicting) health information. We can build up a knowledge of what is good for us, what’s not so good, and can make informed decisions about our own health priorities. In Uganda this is often quite different. Regulations are brought in and enforced, seemingly at whim by the local government of what people’s health responsibilities are (for example every home should have a latrine) with no explanation as to why this matters or support to put the provisions in place.
Take vaccinations for example. Imagine someone coming along and stabbing your child with a needle, making your child sick for a few days without any explanation of what a vaccination does or how it is protecting your child from future harm. I don’t know about you but I would certainly be reluctant to participate.
All of these are reasons why a little bit of HOPE have made health education a priority. However we are finding it is not an easy one to get right. How do you strike a balance between informing, supporting and encouraging people to act? That is why much of the end of last year was spent reviewing our health education programme and trying to find a model that works in the context of rural Butaleja District.
Given the success of other health programmes such as smokeless stoves that have worked with existing community and women’s groups, the Ugandan team have decided that this is the best, and most effective, way to educate people around health. Working with groups that we already have a relationship of trust with, our team will embark on a programme of health education.
With the programme, each group will be given a small pot of money, enough to invest in the building of one latrine. The group will be given control of this pot themselves to use as they see fit. They may give it as a loan to one member at a time to build a latrine or they may distribute it according to need.
This method involves a degree of risk. There is the worry that some groups will miss-use the money entrusted to them but these groups are based upon trust and social responsibility and from our previous work we know them to be good stewards of resources that are given them. Allowing the community to have responsibility over their own futures is part of the vision of a little bit of HOPE and this is one more step towards achieving that.