STEP UP Uganda is an ITD project which offers medical and psycho-social capacity building in Northern Uganda, an area which continues to suffer from the effects of a 20-year armed conflict. Volunteer U.S. health and social work professionals work in partnership with Ugandan colleagues at our sister NGO, also called STEP-UP Uganda (SUU), to offer training and consultation to professionals and community members. The project is predicated on the belief that medical and psychosocial well-being are inextricably related to the process of peace and reconciliation.
We envision a world in which individuals, families, and communities have the capacity and hope to build conditions that promote total health, education good governance and livelihood.
Because of the destruction wrought by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, Northern Uganda lacks adequate roads, water, electricity and economic resources. It has high rates of infant mortality, child health issues, malaria, war-related trauma, domestic violence, land disputes, and other serious medical and psychosocial conditions stemming from poverty, political isolation, and the armed conflict. The U.S. team works with SUU and Ugandan health workers year round, including during annual visits, using a training of trainers model. We work to build the capacity of a small group of leaders who in turn train others in their community. This approach involves working collaboratively rather than employing an “expert, top-down” model. We recognize that while our team holds medical and psychosocial expertise, our Ugandan colleagues are experts about their culture and community and have much wisdom, knowledge, and expertise to share.
In its first visit to Uganda in 2011 the U.S. team worked collaboratively with local Ugandan healthcare providers on malaria prevention, safe sex, neonatal resuscitation, preventing child dehydration, and offering responses to a range of other medical challenges. The U.S. team returned to Uganda in 2013 and expanded its work to include a “Helping Babies Breathe” program. This involved training Acholi midwives, who in turn trained more midwives in the essentials of improving infant survival rates at birth. SUU also offered psychosocial training to taxi drivers, small business owners, women’s leaders, religious elders, police officers and other community leaders about how to work with people who are suicidal, drinking excessively, and other behavioral manifestations of the toll of the 20-year armed conflict. And we worked alongside our Ugandan colleagues as they saw patients and clients in local health centers in what we call “Health Camps.”
In addition to the training and services the U.S. team delivers, it supports developing our Ugandan colleagues’ organizational capacity and access to resources for improved response to the region's needs. SUU has also been working with Ugandan partners in the fields of democracy, good governance, conflict resolution, and women’s civic involvement.
In January 2014, the U.S. team will be sending two doctors and two social workers to build on last year’s work. We are excited about continuing the “Helping Babies Breathe” program initiated last year. This will include follow-up training with the original group of six midwives trained last year and then observing them instruct 12 new trainees. We will also provide ambu bags and newborn masks for every health center in the sub-county.
The U.S. team will deliver medical training in substance abuse and alcohol withdrawal. This training will integrate psychosocial factors and interventions. We are excited to involve a new Ugandan organization into our project. PACTA is a local Acholi NGO that addresses chemical dependency prevention and treatment in the city of Gulu. Our Ugandan colleague and partner, Dr. Auma Maria Alai, will do a presentation [JHD2]on early detection and management of diabetes. We will also do presentations on anorectal disease, pediatric HIV, preventing and treating ear infections (which contribute to high rates of hearing impairment), how to talk with teenagers about preventing sexually transmitted diseases, and suicide prevention.
STEP-UP’s social workers will be working with community leaders to continue addressing the serious psychological scars from the war. They will be working in concert with PACTA and with Caritas, another local organization. There will also be a one-day “Health Camp” as in previous years where US and Ugandan providers work side by side seeing patients, exchanging knowledge and practice wisdom, and assessing what future topics should be covered in training sessions.
We are proud that the participants in our trainings consistently value our collaborative approach. As one of last year’s participants said, “Lots of NGOs come in to train us but they tell us what to do – they don’t ask questions or respect that we also know something and have something to teach you.”
In the words of a member of the Ugandan branch of SUU, "we envision a world in which individuals, families, and communities have the capacity and hope to build conditions that promote total health, education good governance and livelihood. The activities of SUU are therefore meant to address health needs, good living standards, timely delivery of services, promotion of democracy, good governance and open opportunities for the young to build a strong nurturing working society in the whole Acholi sub-region."
Support STEP-UP Directly
Please support our work by writing a check to ITD, with “STEP-UP” in the memo line. Mail to: ITD, 447 West Street, Amherst, MA 01002.