One Health in Uganda

By Jamie Neufeld with Kyla Kotchea, Veronica Pickens, and Shauna Thomas

Photos by Kris Chandroo and Jamie Neufeld

July was by far our busiest month working on a variety of projects. We rarely reached home before it was pitch black, and the sun seemed to rise earlier and earlier with each passing day. Along with our vaccination campaign, we had two reusable menstrual pad training days, two community wellness education days with our nursing and nutrition colleagues from the University of Saskatchewan, paravet training day, and the goat pass-on, which we have been working towards all summer.  Thankfully, July also brought project supervisor Dr. Claire Card to Uganda, which provided us interns with invaluable learning opportunities in the field and help with organizing paravet training day and the goat pass-out.

PHOTO 1Dr. Claire Card with our friends from Vetoquinol.  From left to right: Vik Nimbkar, Claire Card, Kristopher Chandroo, and Kelsey MacNeil.  Photo courtesy Kris Chandroo.

The reusable menstrual pads training day focuses on empowering young women and the value of education.  Before coming to Uganda, hearing that young women miss school every month when they have their periods was a concept that was difficult to grasp. How can something so natural prevent young women from receiving education?  However, hearing about challenges in the household made the situation a bit more sensible; some families eat one meal a day, have over five children to pay school fees for, and certainly cannot afford the disposable menstrual products that we take so for granted in the western world.  The objectives of this project, which was spearheaded by WCVM student and VWB 2015 intern Sarah Zelinkski, are to provide girls with reusable menstrual pads so they never have to miss school because of their menses again, to emphasize how education is directly correlated to making more money and having fewer, healthier children, and that girls can do everything just as well as boys – oftentimes even better! The training days took place at Kihwa Primary School and Nyamuanja Modern School and were received with much enthusiasm.  The girls learned how to sew their own reusable liners, care and wash instructions, and left with a liner and shield set that were sewn by friends and family members in Canada.

PHOTO 2 (1)Girls at Nyamuanja Modern School sewing their reusable liners.

We were incredibly fortunate to have University of Saskatchewan nursing and nutrition students in Mbarara this summer who were invested in the wellness of our community members. Because of their interest and efforts, we were able to provide community health days to two groups, Kahenda and Kishuro.  Kahenda is a secluded, difficult to access community where the population is elderly and cervical cancer and syphilis are of great concern.  Many children are malnourished, as many grandmothers raising grandchildren are unaware of the different dietary requirements between the two life stages.  Kishuro is a large community that asked for further education in nutrition and first aid training. For both days, our nursing and nutrition colleagues were right on target with providing pertinent training and education, consultations, and cooking demonstrations that used local foods to make tasty, nutritious dishes. To add to this One Health experience, many of the nurses and dieticians spent time with us in the field vaccinating, tagging, and deworming goats, graduating as expert goat wranglers. Shauna and I spent a day in the hospital’s labour and delivery ward and assisted with our first ‘human calving’, an experience that confirmed our pursuit of veterinary medicine.

PHOTO 3 (1)University of Saskatchewan nutrition students starting off the community health day under the acacia tree with the members of Kishuro.

Last but certainly not least, the goat pass-out. The five days leading up to the goat pass out day were some of the busiest days of summer. Pens of potential beneficiaries had to be checked, goats for sale needed to be located, tested for brucellosis, purchased, and transported to the FAOC site where the event occurred, and contracts and goat keeping records printed. Once all of the goats were on site, each goat needed to be dewormed, vaccinated, sprayed for ticks, and photographed for our records. The stress from transporting goats and mixing animals from multiple sellers made for a variety of physical ailments, so the animals were closely monitored and treated when necessary. We performed supermammary teat removals, trimmed hooves, and treated ringworm and deep corneal abscesses. We were happily joined by three people, Kris, Vik, and Kelsey, who were sponsored by Vetoquinol and present for the paravet training day and goat pass-out.  They enriched the experience with sincere interest in the communities and beneficiaries, knowledge of veterinary medicine, humour, beautiful photographs, and lots of help with the goats. After only two days together, we were sad to see them go.  At the pass-out ceremony, beneficiaries received one or two goats depending on level of need along with a notebook for goat record keeping.  Contracts outlining the pass-on scheme and proper goat care were signed, and the day ended with the spectacular site of red dirt roads speckled with traditionally dressed women and men walking their new goats home, some up to twenty kilometers away.

PHOTO 4All attendees of the goat pass-on day: Beneficiaries and their children, community paravets and chairpeople, VWB interns, University of Saskatchewan nursing and nutrition students, and our guests from Vetoquinol.  Photo courtesy Kris Chandroo.

PHOTO 5Hellen Tumwine from Rutsya with her new goat at the pass-out.  Photo courtesy Kris Chandroo.

In conclusion, success of the VWB goat pass-on project is rooted in working closely with the community members and trying to tackle the challenges they face, whether it be animal related or otherwise.  Upon starting our internship in May, we dove into a One Health experience that developed our interprofessional, veterinary, and communication skills.  We are thankful for this opportunity with VWB and to have had Dr. Card as our passionate and informative project supervisor, and for the generous donors who purchased the goats for pass-out day.  We owe so many thanks to our translators who became dear friends, and to the community members who graciously welcomed us into their lives.

thumbnail_PHOTO 6 (1)Ten-year-old Batorine with his sister, Lynette.  Batorine stays home from school to help farm beans, matoke, and fruit.  With the help of goats, we are hopeful that Lynette will have the opportunity to attend school.