Having returned from spending time at the Suubi Clinic recently one of Monash University's TeamMEM group, Masad Alfayadh, has taken the time to write about the positive impact that Suubi Community Clinic is having on the surrounding community. We thank her for the recognition that the Suubi medical staff, and the services they offer, are indeed improving the living standards of those they come in contact with. Our aim is that we can continue the great work in Lubanda Village and hope that the outreaches into neighbouring villages will begin to have the same positive impact in these communities.
We volunteered in the Suubi Clinic, in a village called Lubanda in the Lwengo district, at the start of 2015. I was with a group of six other medical students, all of us studying at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. We went there as part of an organisation called TeamMed, which facilitates global health outreach for medical students. I’d never been to Africa before, and have never volunteered overseas before, so this was bound to be a very life-changing experience for me.
The culture was really beautiful and welcoming and the people were all so kind, caring and patient! What stood out most for me during the trip, though, was the medical aspect. It was both really inspiring and really saddening to see, in such a tangible way, how the lack of access to healthcare impacts people’s lives.
We worked for a few days at the Suubi Community Health Centre, collecting patient data, sitting in with the doctor during consultations, doing laboratory testing and dispensing medication. We were very impressed at the number of people who already knew their HIV status, did regular testing, used family planning and mosquito nets. It was much, much better than the official overall Ugandan statistics would have predicted! Almost everyone knew about the importance of risk prevention and implemented public health recommendations in their lives. It was very clear to us that the presence of such a basic clinic in this isolated village had really empowered and educated the locals. During meals, we joked [probably somewhat truthfully] about how the villagers implemented more preventative health strategies in their lives than the young people we knew back in Australia.
We spent two of our seven medical testing days in villages other than Lubanda, where the clinic was situated. The inequity we saw was really disheartening. There was definitely a very stark difference in level of education about health, utilization of services and general health status. The rate of HIV was much higher in those villages, there was a higher percentage of people who’d never had their HIV status determined and many did not implement preventative health strategies in their lives such as family planning, clean water sources and mosquito nets. Needless to say, the quality of life was much lower, which we attributed to the lack of access to healthcare, as well as the lack of health education.
There was one particularly heartbreaking incident of a 28 year old mother who had been enduring the agony of a fungal infection of all ten fingernails for two years because she did not have access to a health facility. When we gave her treatment, she started crying because she was so overwhelmed and excited at the prospect of getting rid of the pain.
This really made me realise how important even a small, simple primary health facility is. It makes such a tremendous difference to people’s quality of life. This experience really solidified in my mind the extent of the positive impact that public health campaigns and primary health facilities can have and how much of a tangible difference they can make simply by educating the community, let alone treating it. I really admire the work done at Suubi and wish and hope, from the bottom of my heart, that all people in Uganda, and the rest of the world, will be able to access at least one clinic such as this one.
Masad working side by side with Suubi medical staff at Suubi Clinic (Top) and Kiwangala outreach (Bottom).
You can see lots more photos of TeamMEDs trip and read more about their time working at Suubi in early blog posts: testing and treating / dental workshop