Flavia Kisembo, 70, is a happy woman today. In 2002, Kisembo was a miserable village grandmother as she considered the future of her remaining two HIV positive grand children. Kisembo had lost three of her children, a son and two daughters to HIV/AIDS. Some of her grandchildren also died from the same disease.
When the second daughter died in 2001, she left three children, two boys and a girl with Kisembo. “The girl died shortly after the mother’s death. The youngest boy who was about three years was getting sick so often and it was becoming a nightmare to manage his sickness,” Kisembo recollects.
It only dawned on her when one of her neighbours, Rev. Ezra Musobozi who had visited her suggested they take the young boy for an HIV test. It turned out that David Nyakoojo was HIV positive. The elder boy too, was HIV positive.
KIDA comes to the rescue
Rev. Musobozi who is the founder of Kitojo Integrated Development Association (KIDA) offered to take care of the orphaned boys. His organization which had started in 1999 was among its programs running an Orphan and Vulnerable children support program by offering them education and home care, as well as Anti Retroviral medicine to those that had been confirmed to start the life prolonging drugs.
“In July 1998, my wife and I purchased a piece of land in Nyanswiga, a small village located in Ruteete sub-county. The community we came to was as welcoming and friendly as any, but a decade and a half of the AIDS epidemic had devastated the families that lived there.The disease had taken parents away from children, friends away from friends, and husbands and wives away from each other. But more than anything else, it was robbing people of their fundamental right to live,” says Rev. Musobozi. Kisembo was just one of the thousands in Kitojo finding life hard because of the HIV/AIDS effects and poverty.
Kisembo, additionally tussling with old age and a chronic pain in her legs was still worried on how she will manage to continue taking her grandchildren for routine medication to the nearest hospital over 40 kilometers away.
Flavia Kisembo’s hospital dream
“As my life gets weaker, my biggest wish is for a hospital to be built in this area. We need a place nearby where our sick can be examined and admitted. Since many of us have sick people in our homes, it will be easier to take them for treatment if there is a hospital nearby,” Kisembo said in a January 2010 interview. She says she appealed to the Rev. Musobozi to help them get a hospital nearby.
As she stands today among the hundreds of people that turned up for the family health day at KIDA on August 2nd 2011, Kisembo carries a smiley grin of someone whose longtime wish has been answered. At least almost answered!
KIDA’s family health day was organized to launch the services of KIDA Hospital, which though still under construction has been licensed by the Ministry of Health.
KIDA Hospital launches services
“We are going to offer general medical services, including antenatal and delivery, surgical services, immunization, laboratory services, in-patients admissions and outpatients services, as well as improve our HIV/AIDS counseling, care and treatment services,” Rev. Musobozi says.
It is a dream come true for Rev. Ezra himself, who says he has watched many people die or suffer pain due to inability to make it to the nearest hospital, or afford the high fees at those hospitals. It is also a big relief for him, since many people in the community have long thrown their lives into his organisation’s hands, which through its clinic has been offering health care services including ARVs to more than 1,000 people.
He says they are hopeful of getting anti retroviral drugs to supply soon. The satellite center of Virika hospital they were hosting was withdrawn, making it hard for many HIV positive people in Kitojo to access treatment for HIV/AIDS and opportunistic infections.
Counting on the Friends of Ruwenzori
With the help of their funding partners, the California based Friends of Ruwenzori, Rev. Musobozi says they are expecting a consignment of hospital equipment that will make them one of the best health service providers in the region.
A dream come true as KIDA Hospital starts health services
“In addition to funding our programs, the Friends of Ruwenzori have mobilized the resources to put up these structures, and have secured us medical equipment. We shall have good quality medical beds, surgical equipment, operating and examination tables among other medical equipment,” Rev. Ezra says.
The consignment of medical equipment mobilized through IMEC, another US based non-profit is expected to arrive in Uganda by end of August 2011.
This together with the support that KIDA has started attracting from different circles is giving Rev. Musobozi a lot of hope to deliver the health care that the community expects from KIDA hospital. He says KIDA has recently received delegations and officials from different civil society and government bodies in Uganda inquiring about possible areas of cooperation.
Local leaders impressed with KIDA.The local district government of the area has promised to offer support to the new hospital, starting off with 8 million shillings pledge per quarter to help the hospital in meeting some of the running costs.
The district Chairman of Kabarole, Richard Rwabuhinga who announced the offer while presiding at the KIDA family health day also promised technical support from the district’s health department, as they will be able.
He hailed KIDA for introducing innovative services that are changing the lives of people in Kitojo and neighboring areas of the district.
“A few months back, I was invited to KIDA to celebrate the success of the KIDA SACCO (Savings and Credit Cooperative Association) that was started by HIV positive people to encourage them to save and borrow to undertake income generating activities.
I’m now here to celebrate with you a family health day that has attracted very many people to receive free medical services at this new hospital,” Rwabuhinga noted.
He said the KIDA health centre, which is now turning into a fully-fledged hospital, is helping the local and central government in providing health services to the people at the grassroots.
The Woman MP of Kabarole district, Victoria Rusoke Businge also speaks highly of KIDA and the new hospital, promising to mobilize any possible support from the central government.
“I’m sure this facility and its unique services is not anywhere in the Ruwenzori region. KIDA is helping the government of Uganda keep people healthy; reduce on material deaths and other challenges. It deserves all the support,” Mrs. Rusoke says.
An achievement, but a beginning
Indeed, KIDA does need all the support they can get. The organisation depends on one donor, the Friends of Ruwenzori to fund its programs. The same funders are mobilizing funds for building, equipping, stocking and running the KIDA hospital.
The KIDA facility expected to cost about 2.5 billion Uganda shillings (about US $1 million) is only half way through.
“We are very grateful to the Friends of Ruwenzori for what they have done for our community. We hope there can be others to join hands with them and support us.
We still need funds to build a maternity ward, bigger operating theater, out patient unit, and administration block.
We need to equip the hospital with necessary testing, treatment and care equipment, medicines, as well as pay the health workers,” Rev. Musobozi says.
KIDA has recently been grappling with accommodation challenges for the newly recruited hospital staff.
Being rural based, there are no private rental units anywhere nearby to accommodate the staff. This has forced KIDA to borrow money from its SACCO to build staff quarters.
Rev. Musobozi hopes that the hospital will charge subsidized user fees to enable KIDA meet the remuneration needs of the staff, but raising any income from health services might be real in over a year.
For Flavia Kisembo and many people in Kitojo, these are issues for Rev. Musobozi to worry about. “Our own worry of where to get quality affordable medical care has now been answered by KIDA hospital,” Kisembo says.