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Makerere University Research shows challenges facing Forcibly Displaced Persons (FDPs) with Chronic Disease in Northern Uganda

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By Agnes Namaganda

Preliminary findings from a study by Child Health and Development Centre (CHDC) -Makerere University have revealed several challenges faced by Forcibly Displaced Persons (FDPs) with chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. This study is specifically looking at FDPs in northern Uganda. Accessing food, water, medicine, clothing, toilet facilities, privacy and support is a challenge for healthy FDPs but for those with chronic diseases, these provisions may mean the difference between life and death.

According to Drs, Ritah Nakanjako and Esther Nanfuka Kalule, who are post-doc fellows at Makerere University, FDPs with chronic diseases are unable to access facilities with medicines. Speaking at the February monthly colloquium of CHDC, Dr. Nanfuka said, “Medicines and medical forms are sometimes forgotten by these patients yet some do not know the names of their medicines. For others, these medicines get finished along the way due to the abrupt movements.” These disturbances in the continuity of care affects their health and wellbeing.

Left to Right: Dr. Esther Nanfuka, Dr. Ritah Nakanjako, Dr. Godfrey Siu who is giving the presenters feedback about their presentation and Dr. Aggrey Dhabangi.
Left to Right: Dr. Esther Nanfuka, Dr. Ritah Nakanjako, Dr. Godfrey Siu who is giving the presenters feedback about their presentation and Dr. Aggrey Dhabangi.

As an example, she referred to the constant need to monitor blood pressure or blood sugar for these FDPs. “Even when facilities are available, you may not have the money to refill medicines or you may not remember the name of the medicine.” She added that the stress and trauma of this kind of situation usually exacerbates these conditions.

Speaking about the rationale for doing this research, Dr. Nakanjako said that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are largely unrecognized and inadequately addressed in humanitarian settings, something which the Red Cross calls ‘a neglected crisis’.  Yet, studies conducted among refugees and asylum seekers across the world report a high burden of NCDs. Uganda hosts over 1.5m refugees, the highest proportion in sub-Saharan Africa with the majority comeing from South Sydan.

“The objective of this study is to examine the experiences of FDPs- which will contribute to knowledge on innovative ways of chronic disease care. This will also contribute to the management of NCDs in humanitarian, low resource settings,” Dr. Nakanjako explained.

Dr. Godfrey Siu (Left) and Dr. David Kyaddondo who is the Principal Investigator of this project interacting with other members of CHDC after the CHDC monthly colloquium which takes place every last Wednesday of the month.
Dr. Godfrey Siu (Left) and Dr. David Kyaddondo who is the Principal Investigator of this project interacting with other members of CHDC after the CHDC monthly colloquium which takes place every last Wednesday of the month.

This 5-year study that started in 2022 will run till 2026 and is funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation under the Mobility-Global Medicine and Research Fund. It is a collaboration between three institutions; Makerere University, the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and the Sudan Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies in South Sudan. This research is taking place in Nyumanzi Reception Center in Adjumani district; Nyumanzi Refugee Settlement also in Adjumani district; IDP Settlements in South Sudan; and the Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement in Yumbe District.

Other challenges revealed by the FDPs with chronic diseases include the fear of drinking recommended amounts of water before or during travel to manage urine and to avoid stop-overs for security reasons.

After arrival at Nyumanzi Reception Centre in Uganda, these FDPs with chronic diseases do not receive any special care. It is only those with communicable diseases like TB. Cholera or Covid19 that get special care. Other challenges include; “a limited range of drugs, maintenance of cold chains for insulin, rationed water, lack of drinking water, lack of sanitary facilities and the congestion.

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METS Newsletter March 2024

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A team documenting the background and other governance structure requirements in the EMR Implementation Guidelines during the stakeholder workshop held from 26th February to 1st March 2024. Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH), METS Program, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

The Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Support (METS) Program is a 5-year CDC-supported collaboration of Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH), the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and Health Information Systems Program (HISP Uganda).

Highlights of the METS March 2024 Newsletter

  • Development of National Electronic Medical Records (EMR) Implementation Guidelines
    • To date, multiple Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems have been rolled out to health facilities without implementation guidelines to inform the standard EMR process/clinical workflows within a typical health facility, minimum requirements for various EMRs to integrate and exchange patient information, insurance and billing workflows, human resources management, among others.
    • METS Program and USAID/SITES organized a five-day stakeholder workshop on 26th February to 1st March 2024, to develop and validate the EMR Implementation Guidelines for Uganda.
  • Improving the Quality of Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision
    • In February 2024, the METS Program, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Implementing Partners (IMs), conducted targeted onsite mentorship across 56 safe male circumcision sites in CDC-supported regions of Uganda.
    • Key findings highlighted the overall facility performance score of 78%, with 5 out of 8 thematic areas scoring above 80%. Notably, 99% of circumcised males had received Tetanus vaccines.
  • Innovation To Strengthen National Health Care Quality Improvement
    • The 10th National Health Care Quality Improvement (QI) conference brought together health service providers from various parts of the country to share experiences and what they are doing to improve service delivery to patients.
    • The Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, called for solutions that will provide answers especially in areas of governance and leadership, health workforce, information systems, service delivery, financing, special groups, and health products.
    • METS made a presentation on improved service delivery models focusing on empowering young women to stay HIV-free with the help of the Determined Resilient Empowered AIDS-free Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) initiative.
  • Gallery
    • Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) launches state-of-the-art auditorium
    • Deploying latest EMR Version at Hoima RRH
    • Training of KCCA staff on use of Point of Care (POC) EMR
    • Stakeholder Workshop on Development of EMR Implementation Guidelines

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New Study Reveals Breastfeeding Mothers Embrace Nutrient-Rich Dish for Health Benefits

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Climbing beans on stakes in one of the gardens visited during the Efd-Mak Kabale District Sensitization in November 2021. Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

A study whose results were recently published in Food Science Nutrition, a peer-reviewed journal for rapid dissemination of research in all areas of food science and nutrition has revealed that there is a growing preference for wholesome meals, highlighting its numerous health benefits.

Titled; Lactating mothers’ perceptions and sensory acceptability of a provitamin A carotenoid–iron-rich composite dish prepared from iron-biofortified common bean and orange-fleshed sweet potato in rural western Uganda,” this study was conducted among pregnant and breastfeeding mothers seeking care at Bwera General Hospital, in Kasese district, western Uganda, between 4th and 15th of August 2023.

Researchers in a 2019 study published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth among pregnant and breastfeeding women in Northwest Ethiopia discovered that pregnant and breastfeeding women bear the highest burden of this deficiency due to heightened physiological demands for iron and vitamin A. These demands increase significantly during pregnancy to meet fetal needs and continue during lactation to support breastfeeding.

The 2020 report on Developments in Nutrition among 204 countries and territories for 30 years since 1990 highlights the substantial impact of dietary iron deficiency and vitamin A deficiency on women of reproductive age in low- and middle-income countries across Africa and Asia. These micronutrient deficiencies are of paramount concern in public health nutrition due to their adverse effects.

A 2022 study published in The Lancet Global Health reveals that progress in addressing anemia among women of reproductive age (15–49 years) is inadequate to achieve the World Health Assembly’s global nutrition target of reducing anemia prevalence by 50% by 2030 in low- and middle-income countries, including Uganda.

Breastfeeding mothers require a higher intake of iron, ranging from 10–30 mg/day, compared to 8 mg/day for adult males. To help meet this increased need, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends iron supplementation programs during the postpartum period, starting immediately after delivery and continuing for the first 6 weeks.

On the other hand, the WHO advises against vitamin A supplementation during the postpartum period, as it offers no noticeable health benefits to either the mother or the infant. Instead, it encourages breastfeeding mothers to maintain a diversified diet that includes vitamin A-rich foods. However, it’s important to highlight that supplementing with vitamin A and iron during this time could enhance the content of these nutrients in breast milk.

In rural Uganda, breastfeeding mothers often face deficiencies in vital nutrients particularly vitamin A and iron. This is as a result of over reliance on plant-based local foods, like sweet potato and non-iron biofortified common bean like Nambale, which lack sufficient amounts of provitamin A and iron, respectively.

To improve vitamin A and iron intake among breastfeeding mothers, Uganda’s government, in collaboration with HarvestPlus, a global program dedicated to ending hunger through providing nutrient-rich foods launched biofortification programs. These initiatives introduced orange-fleshed sweet potato rich in provitamin A and iron-biofortified common bean as staple food in Uganda.

As part of his postdoctoral study, Dr. Edward Buzigi, a Nutritionist and Food security expert, at University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, evaluated the perceptions and sensory acceptability of a dish made from a combination of orange-fleshed sweet potato and iron-biofortified common bean, known for their high levels of provitamin A carotenoids and iron.

The aim was to determine whether the test food could replace the traditional white-fleshed sweet potato and non-iron biofortified common beans, which lacks these essential nutrients.

Ninety-four breastfeeding mothers took part in the study comparing two foods. Participants assessed the taste, color, aroma, texture, and overall acceptability of both the test and control foods using a five-point scale. Ratings ranged from “dislike very much” to “like very much,” with attributes deemed acceptable if participants rated them as “like” or “like very much.”

Also, focus group discussions were held to explore participants’ thoughts on future consumption of the test food alongside statistical analysis done using the chi-square test to compare sensory attributes between the two food options, while the qualitative data from focus group discussions were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Findings revealed that taste, color, and aroma were satisfactory to the mothers and showed no significant difference between test food and control food. Mothers had favorable views of the taste, aroma, and color of orange-fleshed sweet potato and iron-biofortified common bean but expressed concerns about the soft texture of orange-fleshed sweet potato. Despite this, breastfeeding mothers expressed positive attitudes towards consuming orange-fleshed sweet potato and iron-biofortified common bean, as long as it was accessible, affordable, and easy to prepare.

Dr. Buzigi lecturers at the Department of Community Health and Behavioural Sciences at Makerere University School of Public Health in Uganda.

Read the scientific article here;  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/fsn3.4053

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Call for Applications: AWE Change Masters fellowship programme support

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L-R: The Departments of Family Medicine (School of Medicine) and Human Anatomy (School of Biomedical Sciences) Buildings, College of Health Sciences (CHS), Mulago Hill, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

Makerere University College of Health Sciences in collaboration with Duke University, USA are conducting a national collaborative research study on Epilepsy with local leading researchers in the fields of neurology and psychology in Uganda and international experts in the field of neurology and neurosurgery in the USA. The study aims to investigate the panorama of epilepsy in Uganda across the life span by clinically characterizing its features, comorbidities, and risk factors among the general population, with a focus on stigma among adolescents.

Applications are invited for the AWE Change Masters fellowship programme support from postgraduate students of:

  • Makerere University College of Health Sciences
  • Mbarara University of Science and Technology
  • Gulu University

The closing date for the receipt of applications is 22nd May 2024.

Submit all Enquiries and Applications to awechangeproject@gmail.com

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