Sunday, May 2, 2010

3, 270

Ugandan woman and child with malaria net.

Ugandan woman with child at a Uganda Village Project Family Planning & Safe Motherhood Seminar

The first clean water drops from a shallow-well.
3, 270

That's the number of miles trained so far. Phew!

105.7 miles in the water
2,601 miles on the bike
563 miles in my running shoes

And if you multiply 3, 270 x 10,000 that is the population of Uganda. 32.7 million

Now here are some more numbers/stats that explain the reason why I am a part of Uganda Village Project and why I am raising money for this organization.

51% -- Probability at birth of not surviving until age 6
76% -- Ugandan population living under 2$ a day
50% -- Ugandan population living under 1$ a day

11, 772, 000 -- # of Ugandans not using an improved water source. This means 36% of Ugandans do not have clean drinking water. Over 1/3 are at risk of water-borne diseases. According to the World Health Organization, the objectives of a safe water plan are to ensure safe drinking water through good water supply practices, which include: 1. Preventing contamination of source waters, 2. Treating the water to reduce or remove contamination that could be present to the extent necessary to meet the water quality targets and 3. Preventing re-contamination during storage, distribution, and handling of drinking water.

UVP's Healthy Villages program supports these goals through the following methods: 1. Protected shallow well construction, 2. Installation of community level chlorine dispensers, 3. Improving hygiene awareness and behavior change through education and 4. Providing access to household level safe water storage. UVP strives for sustainability through local community and government resource contributions and expertise.

12, 792, 759 -- # of reported malaria (thousands go unreported) in 2007. Uganda has the 3rd highest death rate from Malaria in Africa. According to the Ugandan Ministry of Health, malaria “currently poses the most significant threat to the health of the [Ugandan] population.” Between 25 and 40% of outpatient visits at health facilities in the country are for malaria. For Ugandan children, malaria is the primary cause of death. Pregnant women, the elderly, and HIV-positive individuals are also extremely vulnerable to the disease.

Uganda also has the third highest rate of fistula in the world. You are now likely saying, what is fistula? I am going to take some time to describe this, as it is a huge problem in Subsaharan Africa and most of us are unaware of it's reality. If I hadn't ever travelled to Uganda, I would remain naive.

As a young American woman, I do not have to be concerned with fistula. However, if I grew up in Uganda, I may have unwillingly been forced into a situation where I was giving birth at the age of 13. That is 1/2 of my current age! I may at this point in my life already have 5 children and given birth to them in settings we could not even imagine having a baby. I may have died during childbirth, or if I survived I may have a continual fistula problem that takes away my ability to live a full life. I could be ostrasized due to the outcomes of my labors and experience a daily lack of confidence, employment, community and health.

Virtually unheard of in wealthier nations, obstetric fistula (Latin for hole) is an affliction of the very poor, and is predominantly caused by neglected, obstructed labour. If the obstruction is unrelieved, the baby usually dies, the prolonged impaction of its head against the mother’s internal tissue resulting in a fistula. The loss of the baby, the persistent incontinence and rank odor that follows, along with many other possible complications such as infertility and chronic infection, may all conspire to isolate the woman from family, society, and employment. Though a simple surgical repair can mend most cases of obstetric fistula, most women go untreated, afraid to admit to the condition or too poor to afford the repair.

Through UVP's outreach to traditional birth attendants and other healthcare workers in the Iganga district, we have learned that there are widespread misconceptions about obstetric fistula – that it is uncurable, and that it is caused by a sexually transmitted infection. UVP works to combat these misconceptions through birth attendant education, through community educational outreaches, and through community drama group performances about fistula. Drama groups are a natural source for education on health issues, and are commonly utilized by Ugandan village communities.

In order to repair women with fistulae, UVP partners with Uganda Childbirth Injuries Fund. We first identify women with obstetric fistula though a number of avenues – village outreaches, health center referrals, radio shows, and simple word-of-mouth between women. We then transport women bi-annually to “repair camps” at Kamuli Mission Hospital, where they are repaired by surgeons from Uganda Childbirth Injuries Fund. In Uganda, all hospital patients must arrive with a friend to feed, attend and nurse them, and so we also transport one attendant for each patient. After surgery, UVP transports the women home (an important step, because if they go home by motorcycle taxi, or walk long distances, they risk re-opening their healing fistula).

I wanted to share this information with you so you can see a glimpse of one piece of work that Uganda Village Project is doing in the Iganga district. Recently I have been reminded of what a blessing it is to be a woman in America -- To have a job. To have the freedom to make my own decisions. To be able to choose when I want to bear children. To be able to choose who I marry and be in a loving and genuine relationship. To feel respected and loved as an individual. To have a healthy body, healthy enough to compete in an Ironman.

Furthermore, I have 2 sister-in-laws who recently gave birth. Both of them had a long day of labor, with 1 of the babies (Molly) being positioned not ideally for birth. If that happened in a third-world country, the outcome would most likely have been bad for mom and baby. This horrible and unnecessary outcome is a reality for many women in Uganda and Subsaharan Africa.

All this to say, if you decide to partner with me in Racing for Relief, you will be joining a cause that is fighting for sustainable fistula education and treatment in communities in Eastern Uganda. You will be a joining a cause that is rolling out education programs to decrease cases of malaria in the Iganga district. You will be joining a cause that is drilling wells and implementing safe water strategies so that more people will have access to clean drinking water, just like we do.

I have less than 2 months left with still $2,000 more to raise to hit my goal of $5,000. Every single donation helps and will make a difference in the projects named above. A sincere thanks to those who have already contributed. If I can raise $5,000, over $35 will go towards UVP for every mile I complete in the Ironman! I am so excited to run this race and hope you will join me in it.

Visit to make a tax-deductible donation UVP.

I truly appreciate the support, and I absolutely love thinking of the positive outcome that will result from all this training. All thanks to YOU!

No comments:

Post a Comment