Monday, October 01, 2012

Lowering Child Mortality Rates in Uganda

In a highly positive development, a new UNICEF report advises that worldwide child mortality rates have dropped by over 40% in the past two decades. Despite this significant decrease, however, preventable and treatable diseases continue to claim the lives of roughly 19,000 young children around the world everyday. One of the areas most affected is Sub-Saharan Africa, where in countries like Uganda, preventable diseases such as diarrhea and malaria account for 34% of the deaths of children under five. The United Nations cited the reduction of child mortality rates as one of its “Millennium Development Goals” to be reached in 2015; FSD intern Elizabeth Gilbert has been part of this initiative at our site in Jinja, Uganda.

Elizabeth spent the summer working with the Phoebe Education Fund for HIV/AIDS Orphans and Vulnerable Children (PEFO) at FSD’s site. After winning a grant of $335 from FSD, she helped design and implement educational workshops with a focus on disease prevention—specifically, the knowledge, skills, and health practices of the 63 grandmother caretakers in the community.

By addressing the root causes of child mortality in the region, distributing first aid kits, and initiating leadership training, Elizabeth’s project has reached over 270 community members and continues to thrive even after her return to the United States.

According to Jinja Program Director Margaret Amanyire, "The momentum of the project has been steadily maintained. Grannies are able to meet and discuss issues of health, encourage each other to promote public health and confidently walk into community health centers as well as invite health workers to their weekly meetings to answer their questions on health issues. They have managed to make a monthly contribution towards re-equipping their first aid kits. The most inspiring observation is that these women have developed so much interest in talking about their health plight and doing something about it, however small.”

As for Elizabeth, she is “certain that working with FSD was the most beneficial learning experience she could have received in her undergraduate education.” Lizzy, now a senior at Northeastern, plans to pursue graduate school in the global development field related to international health rights.

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