STICKING TO OUR MISSION AMIDST THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC CHALLENGE
By Justus Ibrahim Twinomujuni
Unwavering and relentless spirit is key in holding on to a given purpose and accomplishments while facing imminent threats and delineations. Similarly, ACCESS Uganda has hinged on such attributes to continue defending her mission and objectives. Since March 2020, our operational approaches have drastically changed but serving to empower vulnerable communities in limited-resource settings remains core to our agenda. We are guided by principles extricable of such values as compassion, quality healthcare, community, empowerment and transparency.
Because of interruptions caused by the pandemic, it has been difficult to deliver and defend our mission. There has been increasing demand for our services among communities, yet our capacity to sustain human and economic capital among other enabling resources has been drastically jeopardized. However, we have managed to strategically utilize our human resources, and more sparingly spent our limited finances for the continuity of our programs.
Furthermore, we have capitalized on the available human resources for concerted problem solving and engagement of the community for collective support. Our staff have been brought on board and empowered according to their performance needs, and skilled according to individual experiences, talents and abilities. With our ground structure of established community health workers, it has been possible for us to remain in touch with community members, follow up with clients, and do monitoring and evaluation of programs activities. Follow-up and referral system has been synergized by using mobile phones, community radios, and short messaging services. A 24/7 toll-free phone service was established, which improved communication with our current and potential clients.
Our committed workforce and sufficient community engagement has enabled ACCESS Uganda to triumph in delivering maternal-child and reproductive health services, managing non-communicable diseases, caring for orphaned and vulnerable children, provision of personal protective equipment, and relief items like sanitary materials, and foodstuffs as a stimulus for essential meals to various households. With strict observance of SOPS and using a selection of appropriate media, community health workers have been trained and communities sensitised on prevention and control of COVID-19 infection. Our staff members and health trainees were trained about the novel Coronavirus and the scale of managing it, as well as associated multi-disciplinary roles, obligations and responsibilities in tackling its related challenges.
Our main setbacks include the insufficient number of smartphones and inappropriate technical know-how for the usage of mobile/online and other digital/virtual tools and technologies. There hasn’t been the real-time cover of certain duties because running certain programs has largely been dependent on remote working, and financing certain activities has rather become more demanding and costly.
Like any other successful organization, we continue to steer our mission, as we strive to live in the world of COVID-19. We aspire to develop solutions to problems and threats posed by the pandemic. Resource mobilization and investment for adopting tools and technologies necessary for bridging gaps that are emerging with the COVID-19 pandemic era are among our priority areas.
During this COVID-19 resurgence in Uganda, ACCESS management has decided to pivot its implementation approaches in order to achieve its set targets. Some of the approaches include; (1). Strengthening of home-based care services for community members especially pregnant women, (2). Supervision of the community health workers (CHWs) through phone calls to maintain the provision of family planning services and other services in the community, (3). Provide home-based counselling and guidance to orphans and other vulnerable children (OVCs) as well as to young girls to prevent unwanted pregnancies and early marriages. (4) Printing and distribution of education materials to over 500 vulnerable children supported through the ACCESS OVC program to ensure continued learning during this trying period.
WHAT AFRICA CAN TEACH THE WORLD ABOUT SCARCITY, TRAGEDY, AND UNCERTAINTY DURING THE PANDEMIC: PART I
THIS POST IS WRITTEN BY ROBERT KALYESUBULA, MD, NEPHROLOGIST, AND FOUNDER OF THE AFRICAN COMMUNITY CENTER FOR SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY (ACCESS)
It is often said that experience is the best teacher. Well, the COVID-19 epidemic presently ravaging the world could be a driver for reverse learning. It is time that Africa and other resource-limited communities shared their long-learned experiences dealing with scarcity, high mortality rates, and uncertainty with the rest of the world.
ISN EMERGING LEADERS PROGRAM
ACCESS’ VIEW OF TRANSFORMATION CHANGE
In 2002, the founder of the organization Dr. Robert Kalyesubula swayed through the uncertainty in the Nakaseke district, with his concentration in medicine the discipline he had learned skills to manage patients and the psychology of medicinal life in people over the period of eighteen years, he decided to break through the uncertain medical events in the community at that time, by using what he knew best, “health”
Change is both a positive and negative movement, that shifts a person’s thinking to either a better or worse situation. Change is necessary in many occasions, however for change to be sustained, it requires a transformation which is the process in which a person’s way of thinking is permanently shifted to a positive or negative situation
Therefore, transformation pronounces a complete and sustained change or shift in a person’s state of life, either positively or negatively.
ACCESS’ proposed transformation is hinged on the theorem of collectiveness and community buy-in.
For a period of 18, – eighteen years the organization has championed its engagements in the community in the bid to attract the entire modeled African society of Nakaseke District in Uganda to a collective performance to change owned by the entire community, which relates to sustainable change that stands to shift the thinking of the person’s within the community.
As many of the African communities, the problems of lack of education even in basic areas, lack of access to good medical services, poverty that grows from continued family poverty circles, and lack of self-drive to work and earn due to constrained national economic systems, continue to haunt many of the African societies and Nakaseke district in Uganda does not escape.
ACCESS- African Community Centre for Social Sustainability, is set out to work with the community people in the community it serves to identify and address community problems in the areas of education, health, and economic empowerment, in order to alleviate poverty, stop disease spread and create a sustainable life for the community people where by creating a positive change that is owned by the entire community:
This transformation change process includes the organization itself as the driver of sustainable positive change, the community health workers as the lubricator of the positive sustainable change, the community people as the receivers of positive sustainable change, the community( Nakaseke District) as the defining boundary to change adoption- based of the geography, culture, and customs, etc, the Government as the regulatory body to the magnitude and nature of positive sustainable change that needs to be adopted, and finally the funder- the financier of all strategies used to sell/ drive the positive sustainable change
Managing Director- ACCESS
MANAGEMENT SUCCESSES VS IMPEDIMENT TO TALENT, INNOVATION, SMOOTH AND USUAL RUNNING OF ORGANIZATION EVENTS:
The terrain was known to all, with interested parties whose concentration was to roll the mission of the organization to address the problem areas of education, health, and economic empowerment within the community marked to serve and others that are inevitable to bypass.
It was almost a year, our budget was well represented and supported with a guarantee of the continued provision until June 2020, when we expected, two of our grants to end, with confidence that they would be renewed after a few areas of change within the operations and management as were suggested by the concerned funders.
On our monitoring and evaluation chart, every activity was moving according to plan and if continued that way, we were to hit targets before the expected dates.
The revolution of unprecedented events started in March 2020, when the known wave that was heard to have swept through the oversee nations broke through into the African states: there was fear for life and property around the Ugandan people, all over the nation.
The ACCESS Management urgently embarked on the journey to spread the awareness of the disease and all the known precautionary measures were educated to all the ACCESS community which included, 170 Nursing and Midwifery students, 75 employees, and 125 Village Health workers,
Management also forecasted the hardships to reach the beneficiaries and on time in case of movement was halted for some time, and immediately organized and scheduled the visitation to the most vulnerable beneficiaries including the elderly community and the children in schools
Following the scare of massive deaths around the world and the identified numbers of V
COVID 19 cases, on the 20th of March 2020, the Ugandan government passed a directive to temporarily close down the operations of all schools and institutions, which called us to send all-out student Nurses and Midwives back to their homes until the state called back schools into operations.
Management was less saddened with this news, and also what calmed us down was that the students were already in the know of what was happening and of how to keep themselves safe during the lockdown period, although this met that the school staff will not have an income to offset their operational costs.
Urgently, Management drew out a map of the COVID 19 possible impact on operations (current and future), finance, (income & expenditure), travel and movements (in, around, and out,) of the country, and immediately devised measures to continue the mission running through, despite the many stalling factors.
Although the staffing on the ground reduced, and many systems were digitized to ensure the information available for some of the staff who worked from home, the monitoring and evaluation of some of the implementation activities that remained operational in the community and medical and surgical services become a daily concern and the reporting system also become real-time.
Early communication was made to the different funders to express the projected delay in the execution of planned/ funded activities and a pause on fund usage, and approval was sought early enough to postpone the work on budgets until the lockdown was uplifted
The international students were advised to return home as early as possible before the borders were closed off for and also held on any expected participants who were scheduled to come in between April and June 2020.
We thank God that all the ten participants whom we had on the ground made it safely to their homes.
Financially on the 30th March, the Ugandan president passed a directive to lock down the country for 14 days and the other directives that followed including the many do’s and don’ts surrounding the COVID 19 precautionary measures.
Credit goes to the management and administrative team of the organization, together with the organization’s donors who supported us through the trying time and continue to see be with us all through.
To God be the glory.
IMPACT OF COVID -19 ON ACCESS GLOBAL HEALTH PROGRAM
A huge impact has been on placements and movement of participants. This is mainly due restrictions on various operations more so lockdown that was effected on March 18, 2020. In early March 2020, there were four Touro University MPH students at A CESS Uganda for global health elective placement. They had to be sent back to the US before completing their placement rotations due to COVID-19 spread upsurges.
Another placement for Nuvance health medical students was also affected. They were supposed to come from the US on March 27, 2020, for global health elective placement at ACCESS Uganda. There was no option but to have the placement canceled. There are therefore no operational onsite global health-related placements for both local and international participants in the meantime. The global health curriculum is now being blended to suit virtual participation.
Now that Uganda has started lifting the lockdown on educational institutions, and international/ cross-border travel, there is hope that onsite placements would resume at some point in the near future. Meanwhile, we continue to virtually engage with our global health/international partners. Collaboration and partnership for perpetuating education and research, healthcare services, and the economic empowerment of communities remain a core part of our objectives.