Nurse Apila is one of hundreds of community health workers that have been trained by Hands to Hands International and our partners at Medical Teams International to talk about early childhood development and health with her patients in Aromo, Uganda as part of a USAID Child Survival Project.
Messages about health and development, baby massage, baby cues and breastfeeding are given to patients visiting the health clinics. Nurse Apila told us these messages vary greatly from common village practices which sometime cause children more harm than good.
High fevers are often treated by removing the child’s canine teeth causing pain, possible infection, inability to eat and all sorts of complications. On average, they used to treat 12-14 of these teeth pulling cases every month, with some of the children dying because of severe complications. Since the HHI trainings, there hasn’t been a single case at her clinic in over a year! Educating parents through community health workers has caused a dramatic decline in teeth pulling, she tells us. There are also fewer cases of fever, parents recognize signs of illness faster and bring babies in for treatment sooner, making treatments more successful.
Nurse Apila said there has been great change in her village. For the first time, babies can be seen in the health clinics to address problems early. This is a new behavior, as health clinics previously were rarely used for child health, with children only arriving if they were near death. Children are walking and talking sooner, receiving medical attention rather than seeing a witch doctor, parents have new attitudes about immunizations and more children are receiving them.
Because of what she learned she told us that she now knows a crying baby is trying to communicate with her, telling her he needs something. She also tells us she’s better able to recognize developmental delays and address them at the clinic.
The good news is spreading among villagers since mommies and other caregivers are seeing such positive responses from their babies. Mommies and daddies empowered to be the best caregiver they can be- this is what HHI is all about!
“I’m proud to be a part of this change in my village. Now parents bring me gifts of sugar and grains to thank me for saving their baby’s life,” Nurse Apila said.
We thank her too, it’s the hard-working, dedicated women (and men!) around the world that are carrying HHI’s messages into their villages, saving lives and creating healthier and happier families!