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Operation Health for Comic Relief

Photo: Vicky Dawe/Comic Relief
  Operation Health for Comic Relief was an exciting initiative to refurbish a health facility in a small town called Iyolwa in Tororo district along the eastern border of Uganda. More
Tororo is a place of great beauty and cultural diversity, but also an area with an excessively high malaria burden. On average, residents of Tororo are exposed to 1.5 infectious mosquito bites every night – one of the highest rates in the country – and malaria accounts for more than 40 percent of outpatient attendance at health facilities. The health system is overstretched, too. Not only are facilities and resources lacking, but due to Tororo’s close proximity to Kenya, many people cross the border to benefit from the free healthcare provided in Uganda. The clinic, which acts as a crucial point of contact for a number of surrounding villages, has often found itself faced with supply shortages, insufficient staff and a lack of training.  Malaria Consortium has a long history working in the region to help build the capacity of health systems and improve community-level care. One of our current projects in Uganda, funded by Comic Relief, is developing a system that will ensure the continuous distribution of long lasting insecticide mosquito nets by working with health-facility based antenatal care centres and primary schools for regular distribution to those most in need - pregnant mothers, their newborn babies and young children. Less
The health system in Uganda The health system in Uganda is based on a referral system, which forms critical linkages between healthcare at the community and national levels. More
For people living in rural areas, Village Health Teams (VHTs) are often the first points of contact. These volunteer community health workers are not formally trained and often lack critical medicines for treatment, but they act as an important resource for assessing symptoms, advising on health issues and referring patients to health centres. If they are not equipped to treat a patient, VHTs are responsible for referring to health centres. The first level is the Health Centre II, which offers basic provisions to treat common illnesses and provides antenatal care. Health Centres III and IV have better facilities and more resources and at the top are regional hospitals and the national hospital in the capital city, Kampala.

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What Operation Health for Comic Relief is about
’Operation Health’ was a project to renovate and refit a Health Centre level III facility located in Iyolwa Central Village, solving some of the other problems faced by the facility along the way, not least a couple of infestation problems. Level III health centres generally have about 18 staff that run an outpatient clinic and maternity ward and should also have a laboratory. However, the Iyolwa Health Centre was unable to serve the community adequately due to logistical challenges, scarce resources and a lack of trained staff. The facility has no power, no running water, and lacks necessary infrastructure. More Reopening of Iyolwa Health Centre III

The re-opening of a rural clinic in the Tororo District of eastern Uganda on Friday 10 April marked the end of the nine-week community-led project to build a fully functioning health facility and improve access to services. More


Iyolwa Health Centre III, which serves 20,000 people in the local community and receives around 1,450 patients a month, underwent a transformation from a clinic infested with rodents and bats and without running water or electricity – to a renovated building that has been fully furnished with new equipment and a reliable and sustainable source of electricity from solar panels. The project also provided initial training to staff on the use and maintenance of all new equipment in the clinic to serve community. 

Malaria Consortium provided local level expertise during the renovation, in what was Comic Relief’s biggest challenge ever for Red Nose Day (13 March 2015). To date, this years’ campaign has raised over £78 million from the UK public. Some of the money raised this year will go to fund more health projects in Uganda and other countries across Africa. Speaking at the launch event, Malaria Consortium Uganda County Director, Dr Godfrey Magumba said: “We are delighted to have been part of this initiative and what we have achieved together, with the district health team and community in Iyolwa, is truly remarkable.  Today, this newly refurbished clinic opens its doors to the community and will ensure proper health services are available to Iyolwa and surrounding community.”

Also speaking at the event, Hon. Sarah Opendi, Minister of State for Health, Primary Health Care who officiated the re-opening of the newly refurbished Iyolwa clinic said:  ‘On behalf of the Government of Uganda and Ministry of Health, I am grateful to Comic Relief for funding this project, to Malaria Consortium for managing the project well, and to Exmed for helping to rebuild the health facility in a record nine weeks.' The refurbishment of the lyolwa Health Centre III has shone a spotlight on the challenges faced by many rural communities who have limited access to healthcare. The Ministry of Health and district health teams, with support from Malaria Consortium, are developing a strategy to address challenges that may arise and strengthen healthcare delivery in Iyolwa in a follow on project. This project will aim to deliver high quality services in Iyolwa and improve health workers’ skills, performance and retention. 
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Photos from Iyolwa

pIyolwa Health Centre III before refurbishmentnbspbeganppCopyright Will BoaseComic Reliefp
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Malaria Consortium's other Comic Relief projects in Uganda
Operation Health is complemented by the work of two other Malaria Consortium projects funded by Comic Relief in eastern Uganda, one in the same district of Tororo and the other in neighbouring Mbale. Both initiatives, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, are helping to reduce the burden of malaria in children under five years old through activities in the community, and support and training at health facilities. Malaria Consortium has also recently concluded a five year Comic Relief funded project in western Uganda, Pioneer, which helped turn a region with a high number of child malaria deaths to one where over 340,000 children had access to live saving treatment at community level. 

More information on Operation Health for Comic Relief - Red Nose Day 2015.

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