Tag: Child Survival

Outstanding Outcomes in Uganda

USAID recently evaluated HHI’s impact in Uganda, and we can hardly believe the incredible results they found!

In 2010, HHI began collaborating in the post-conflict zone of northern Uganda as the “innovation” in a USAID Child Survival project, led by Medical Teams Int’l.  It was our first chance to really try to integrate HHI’s early childhood caregiver trainings into a large scale health initiative, and it was our first project in Africa.  Now after years of listening, learning, training and supporting, we have some incredible results to share with you.

More than 15,000 mothers, fathers and health workers participated in HHI’s early childhood development trainings. They care for 30,000+ young children.

Outcome highlights include:

  • Cognitive stimulation from parent to child increased from 30% – 76% (doubled!)
  • Linguistic stimulation increased from 23% – 64% (tripled!)
  • Showing affection during feeding (responsive feeding is important to preventing malnutrition) increased from 54% – 91%

And these finding showed sustainability 1½ years AFTER we were there!


Other highlights were:

  • Stopped corporal punishment
  • Stopped domestic violence (they worked out problems by talking instead, pointing to what they learned in HHI’s lesson on social-emotional development and non-verbal communication (baby cues)
    • We hadn’t thought to measure these outcomes, but these were repeatedly reported during evaluations.
  • Fathers increased their role in care-giving and were enjoying time with their children
  • Noticeable improvements in hygiene, nutrition, improved breastfeeding practices, and providing more frequent and responsive feeding
  • Increased love and affection between children and their parents
  • And so much more…..

Just imagine these results in the context – a population of people that have suffered from decades of conflict, displacement camps, poverty, violence, hunger, HIV+ and seemingly endless obstacles. Theyhave now seen their own power as parents/caregivers, the impact of their love, and the improved lives they are creating for their children, a generation raised on love.  Incredible!

Donate today and ensure that HHI can reach more vulnerable families in need.

A Mother’s Lament, “if only I had known…”

She broke down weeping in the middle of the training.  Sujatha (HHI trainer) had been teaching about feeding of babies, but now she stopped the training to talk to this mother privately and ask her what was going on and why she was crying.  The mother caught her breathe and said, “I didn’t know, no one told me.”

This woman, who we’ll call Seeta, had a sad history and the child she lost years ago still remains deep in her heart.  Seeta told her story and it went like this…  She was married when she was only 13 years-old, a child bride in south India.  By the next year, she was pregnant with her first child and soon enough she was the mother a son.  But, she confessed that she didn’t know how to take care of her baby, nobody told her what to do, but she did the best she knew how.  It is not an uncommon practice for babies to be fed by having a bottle of milk propped in their crib.  Seeta fed her baby this way at times and it is what caused his death.

In the training Sujatha had just been talking about this practice as a part of HHI’s lesson on mother and child nutrition.  This brought Seeta back years to her childhood, when she herself was trying to raise a child.  Seeta said “if only I had known, this would have saved my baby’s life.”  She pledged that she would take HHI’s information to everyone she knew, she would spread it like a gospel in her community and to everyone she knew.

Sometimes the most basic information is the most critical.  Years later, she gave birth to and is now raising a healthy and much loved daughter, but she will never forget her son.

Please commit to helping HHI bring critical knowledge and support to more families in need.

Donate today.  $25 transforms the lives of 5 children, and maybe saves a life.

Kony 2012 – My 2 Cents

I trust that by now you have heard of the Kony 2012 campaign, its lit up the internet, blogs, talk shows and just about everywhere else this past week.  I’ve followed this with not-a-little curiosity, as only two weeks ago I returned from visiting northern Uganda where HHI has been working for the last two years, and where Joseph Kony used to lead his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Where to begin?  I guess I would like to begin with a “Bravo!” followed closely by a, “such a shame.”  The bravo is for the fact that Invisible Children has created a whole new level of social media advocacy and they have engaged more than 70 million (and counting) in learning about Kony, the LRA, and the atrocities that have taken place in Uganda.  I am excited to see so many people talking about this, asking for more information, and wanting to get involved in a solution.  I am even more excited to see that there is such backlash against this, critiquing the information in the video (which is reductionist, somewhat misleading and completely dated, and is focused mainly on a young American boy with almost no Ugandans in it), as well as so many debates now being waged on the basic questions of: “what is good practice in international development?”, “when should external governments (ie., the US) get involved and how?”  and “how can I, an average citizen, make our world a better place?”  These are great conversations to be having!

To clear up what may be a few major misconceptions, I’d like to speak to my recent and historic visits to northern Uganda where I have worked with and been a part of discussions with more than 300+ locals – parents, health workers, government workers, as well as local and international aid workers.  To be clear, there is no longer war from the LRA or any other group in the area for years now.  Kony and his now loosely organized LRA  is estimated to number only 200-300  and is sporadically active neighboring countries.  In Uganda, the camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs, aka, refugees), some of which existed for more than 20 years, have all been dismantled and people have returned to their homes, or what remains of them.

The current challenges in the area are profound, the population used to live primarily on subsistence farming and after years in IDP camps they return to barely accessible roads, overgrown fields, no livestock, and eroded homes.  There are too few: health clinics, health workers, medicines, schools, teachers, water pumps, and almost no ways to earn an income.  While there is an overflow of: HIV/AIDS, and other diseases, malnutrition, food scarcity, PTSD trauma, alcoholism, and likely general depression.  The people I have met here are smart, motivated and active in creating a better future for themselves and while they greatly appreciate international assistance, they would rather be able to provide for themselves and this is what they are working very hard on doing.

See more pics from my recent trip here.

So, what can you do to support the children, the people of Uganda? If you are reading this, you have already begun. That is that you are interested in learning more about the issues and I encourage you to continue to investigate further, I’ll add some links here to assist in that.  I do not believe that the purchase of an Action Kit is making any sort of positive impact. I also do not believe that a campaign focused on catching/stopping one bad guy is any type of meaningful solution, consider that the US capture or killing of Sadam Hussien or Osama Bin Ladan have not brought peace.

I could tell you to just donate more to HHI, as we have been and continue to work with Ugandans, training them to lead caregiver trainings in their communities, and that the impact of this has been both positive and dramatic in improving the health of more than 11,275 young children, by training over 5,737 parents and health workers. HHI’s work is directly bettering the health, well-being and education of young children, in northern Uganda, but tying a fundraising pitch to the Kony 2012 campaign feels cheap and sordid to me.  One very small, completely locally run organization that I have fallen a little bit in love with is The Odwar Fund. I met with founder/director of this non-profit a few weeks ago and I can attest that they are a local, Ugandan-run organization doing great work for their community and that they are doing so with very meager funding.

Beyond all of this, I encourage you to keep asking questions and seek your answers as close to the source as is possible!  The world is a better place when we learn about each other and reach out to do our part to making it a safer, healthier and more loving place for all our children, all our global sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers.


Other articles about the Kony 2012 campaign:


Miracles of Love in Uganda

It has been a very full week here in Uganda!  I’ve been working with our partners, Medical Teams International, to evaluate the impact HHI is having on child health in the area. I’ve heard some astounding new stories of love awakening, health flourishing and lives being saved – literally!  Here are just a few highlights.

Around the world, and particularly in Uganda, corporeal punishment is still common and is seen as the way to instill morals and discipline in the children.  Its not all that long ago in my country, the US, where the saying was, “spare the rod, spoil the child”.  But once parents participate in HHI training here in Uganda, one of the number one outcomes I hear is that they “no longer beat the children.”  This is quite the radical change, and I think such change can only be caused by love awakening.  After the parents learn about how children are communicating with them non-verbally, all the time, they begin to see things in a whole new light, from the baby’s perspective. Babies do not cry because they are “bad babies”, but because they are tired, hungry, don’t feel good, etc.  Both parent and child benefit and life gets a little easier, as parents become more successful in responding to their baby’s communication, and their bond grows.


A great story from a father in Lira is that after HHI he began to spend more time with his youngest child and he not only grew to recognize the baby’s needs, but he taught the baby basic signs to communicate even more. Their relationship has blossomed and he is so proud of how bonded his baby is with him. He did not have this relationship with his two older children, who he always turned away and sent to their mother, and who he used to punish with beatings. But, he is not looking back with sadness, rather he is now building new relationships with them as well and he proudly tells of how all of his children now run to greet him and want to spend time with him.   — Way to go Papa!

A few snippets of other success stories from Uganda are these:

  • Parents are saying that their younger babies are developing more quickly, talk earlier, walking sooner and are smarter than their older siblings.
  • Women used to have been forced to go to the health centers for treatment, they feared the staff and the medical treatments. But since they have now built relationships with the health workers as they learned HHI, they go willingly and are taking their children for immunizations.
  • An HHI parent in Ogur learned massage and practiced on her neighbor’s son  who has a disability that kept the knee pulled up to his chest and he couldn’t crawl. By giving and teaching massage, the child can now crawl.  Now the father of child has learned and is continuing the massage.
  • “Me and my immediate neighbors now compete in cleanliness of our homes and keeping our children clean.” (parent, Amuca)

And lastly, the story of a life directly saved ~  The story comes from the district of Aromo, where for years thousands of people were confined in refugee camps to escape the savages of war that surrounded their homes.  In the camps, food was scarce, health care even more so, and survival was the daily task.  The majority who survived these camps were left with little dignity, no homes to return to and with HIV.  This is where a young mother was at her wits end with exhaustion and frustration with her baby who had been chronically sick with diarrhea and was not responding to any treatments. She was taking the baby to the river to take drastic action, she was going to throw him in and drown him. At just this time, she came upon Gloria, an HHI Mommy Leader.  Gloria counseled her deeply, listening and offering comfort and hope. After some time, Gloria was able to convince the young mother to take her baby to the Health Center, and she offered to walk her there and stay with her. The outcome is that the baby received treatment and made a full recovery. The veil of the mother’s despair and depression lifted, she returned to her village and now cannot stop talking about how Gloria saved her baby’s life!

Yes, when we say “HHI saves lives”, we are speaking literally.  See Gloria in the red shirt in this picture – Thank you Gloria!



HHI Begins Work with Medical Teams Int’l in Uganda

Recently, HHI staff Laura Peterson and Sujatha Balaje traveled to Uganda to work with MTI staff, key community stakeholders and village mothers to learn more about the community interest and needs in regards to early childhood development (ECD). This was a beginning step in Medical Teams’ four-year Child Survival Project that HHI is supporting with expertise and training for improving early childhood development and thus child health.

We received a very warm welcome from MTI’s team, as well as all the Village Health Teams and the mothers that we spent time with, gathering information and local insight.

We specifically spent our time in the northern region of Uganda, with communities that are just returning to their homes and land after spending years surviving in refugee camps to escape their country’s civil war. Having been in camps for years kept people alive, but led to other traumas and disrupted the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people, most of whom are now returning to their abandoned homes. This population is now trying to reconstruct their lives, their families, their tiny plots of farm land that have overgrown, and their small businesses, all in a landscape that has almost no infrastructure for water, health care, communications or travel, let alone the luxury of child care centers of nursery schools. Although there was so much these mothers lacked, what was apparent to us was how much they gave to their children. They were gentle, kind and committed to giving their children the best they could and they were eager for more information about how they could support their children.

We are excited to return in July to work with MTI to integrate HHI’s trainings into these communities via the Child Survival Project.