Health services closer to refugees in Rhino Camp, thanks to Save the Children

Friday 18 August 2017

Clutching a bottle of amoxicillin syrup, 28-year-old Victoria Sadia sits outside Akinio health centre, breastfeeding her two-month-old baby, Gladys Sunday. The duo have just been to see Dr. Ronald Mutumba, who is in charge of Save the Children’s Akinio health centre in Ofua B, Rhino Camp refugee settlement, Arua district.

“I am happy because the doctor has treated my child,” Sadia says. “I am sure she will be fine.”

Sadia’s baby has been feverish for the last two days, and this morning she decided to bring her to the health centre. Unlike before, Sadia only had to walk for one hour from her home in Ofua A to reach the health centre. Dr. Mutumba says the baby has a bacterial infection, a common ailment among children in the camp.

“I now come here for treatment,” Sadia says. “The health centre is nearer to my home than the one where we previously went.”

Akinio health centre has been up and running since March this year, having started operations on 13th March under the Emergency Health Unit. Before the health centre was set up, all the people in Ofua village used to seek services at Ocea Health Centre III, a government-run facility. Being the only health centre serving several villages, it received many patients and was quite far from most homes.

Sadia says when she would need to go to the health centre, she would set off from home at 6:00am together with women from the neighbourhood, for security. On foot, they would reach the health centre at 10:00am, having spent four hours on the way. Now Sadia and her friends spend only one hour on the way, a factor that has contributed to the high numbers of patients the health centre receives.

Sadia and her baby at the Save the Children-run clinic

“Every day we get more and more patients. In the beginning we used to handle between 60-70 patients a day, but now we receive up to 100,” says Dr. Mutumba.  

With an eight-member staff, the health centre is an outpatient facility that offers consultation, family planning, antenatal and postnatal care, laboratory services and emergency deliveries.  It also carries out vaccination for children against all immunisable diseases.

“The major complaints that children present with are diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria. We have the requisite medicines to treat these ailments and this has kept attracting the population,” Dr. Mutumba says.

About 100 kilometres from this health centre lies another one clinic run by Save the Children, Ayivu Health Centre III in Bidibidi refugee resettlement camp, Yumbe district. An outpatient facility too, Ayivu offers similar health services. While they both have midwives, they are set up to carry out antenatal and postnatal care for mothers, referring them to hospitals for delivery. However, given the emergency nature of childbirth, both facilities are equipped with a labour room for emergencies. And while Ofua has never handled one, Ayivu has handled two emergency deliveries.

“The mothers came when they were at the point of giving birth, so we could not refer them to the hospital. We just had to help them deliver, after which they were rushed to the health facility,” says Sophie Otieno, an Emergency Health Unit nurse attached to Ayivu.

Both health centres have been opened up in settlements serving refugees who arrived in Uganda after the July 2016 outbreak of violence in South Sudan. The fighting that broke out in the country and which still continues todate has forced almost one million people out of the country and into neighbouring Uganda. New settlements have been opened to host the new wave of refugees, but with funding not matching the rate of the influx, services have been inadequate and populations left desperate. This has particularly affected children, who make up about 64% of the population. According to UNHCR, only 24% of the required $674.25 million has been received, leaving a funding gap of 76%.