|Joanne Offer is in Uganda, where the International Rescue Committee is working with Ugandan communities affected by conflict as well as refugees from neighboring Sudan. Read all her latest posts here.
I meet Namoe Helen at ante-natal class. She’s pregnant with her second child and has come to St Pius Kidepo health center in Moroto district for a check up. Pregnant women can also get tested for HIV as part of IRC’s work to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus.Namoe Helen says, “I’ve been tested for HIV as a precaution and I’m negative. It’s good to be tested because the virus is becoming very widespread; it’s not just affecting town people, it’s in the villages too.”
Examining Namoe Helen is sister Marygoretti, who’s been running the antenatal clinic for the past few months. Marygoretti is originally from eastern Uganda and was shocked by the conditions in Karamoja.
She says, “It’s so different here. When you look at the living conditions, you see it’s very harsh. Poor sanitation is a big problem and most of the health conditions are related to this. Nutrition is also a big problem. This year, nothing has grown. But the women here get food rations to help them during pregnancy.”
Soon, barefooted, Namoe Helen is beginning her long walk home. It will take her an hour. Life can be hard for mothers-to-be here in Karamoja.
Archive for the ‘Aids’ Category
Posted by Joanne Offer on 14 August, 2008
Posted by Joanne Offer on 13 June, 2008
Portrait of Pierrot Photo: Joanne Offer/The IRC
|The International Rescue Committee’s Joanne Offer is in northern Kenya. See all her posts here.
One of the joys of visiting our field offices is meeting colleagues on the front line. Kakuma has proved no exception and I spent an interesting few hours with Pierrot Mugaruka from our HIV/AIDS program.
IRC counsellors offer both refugees and local people information about how to prevent
Pierrot told me that settling into the camp was hard at first, not least because of the harsh, dry weather. But he enrolled in IRC’s adult literacy program to improve his English skills and never looked back. Today, he helps both refugees and local people access life-saving information about HIV prevention, as well as free testing and counseling services. He describes his role as “the link” between IRC and the refugee community. It’s certainly a vital one.
Posted by The IRC on 15 May, 2008
A drama group performs a short play in Rupa sub-county entitled “Protect Yourself: Use a Condom.” Photo: The IRC
|Uganda’s northeastern Karamoja region is set apart from the rest of the country, both by geography and by the traditions of its inhabitants, most of whom are semi-nomadic livestock herders. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, this isolation kept Karamoja safe from the HIV/AIDS epidemic.Because HIV/AIDS is still relatively new to the region, knowledge and attitudes about the disease lag behind the rest of the country.
The spread of HIV/AIDS within Karamoja is closely related to the frequency of rape during violent cattle-raiding among the region’s different clans, as well as during courtship.
Another contributing factor is the still-common practice of bride inheritance, in which newly widowed women are taken as wives by a male member of their deceased husband’s family. Where a widow has been infected with HIV by her husband there is a risk that she in turn will unknowingly infect her new husband.
To counter these practices, the IRC provides education and counseling to rape survivors and offers community education programs about the effects of rape and violence against women.
The IRC also sponsors community gatherings where drama groups perform plays and songs with HIV-related educational themes.
“The performances convey to male audiences that rape and abuse of women are flatly unacceptable,” says IRC HIV/AIDS program officer Drametu Jimmy.
The performers in the dramas act out of their own life experience – many are HIV-infected themselves.
“I do this to soften the hearts in the community,” said Amuge Patricia, a member of a drama group based in Kotido district. “I want them to know that being infected does not make you cursed or a monster.”
Read the full story, by IRC’s Thomas Bohnett, here.
Posted by Emily Holland on 13 May, 2008
Photo: Emily Holland/The IRC
|Have you ever traveled to a place that couldn’t be farther from home, but where you felt an instant connection? For me, that place is Liberia.
I first visited Liberia in July, 2006. The World Cup soccer tournament was underway. Driving into Monrovia from the airport on my first night in the country, I saw small clusters of people watching the match on generator-powered TV sets. Otherwise, the city was completely dark. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia’s newly elected president had promised to restore electricity to parts of the chronically power deprived capital city. For now, the lights were still off.
My journey though Liberia however, was eye-opening and energizing. I interviewed former child soldiers who had only recently put down their weapons. The IRC was teaching them skills such as carpentry and auto mechanics that would help reintegrate them into civilian life. Many of them hoped to open their own shops someday and were eager to play a part in building a new Liberia.
I met young children who only a short time earlier were selling sand, firewood, and plastic bags of water on the street for a pittance. Now, thanks to the IRC, they were in school and dreaming big dreams. One twelve-year-old girl wanted to grow up to be the second woman president of Liberia. A thirteen-year-old boy declared he would be the first Liberian to walk on the moon.
In rural Lofa County, a remote region of Liberia about a day’s drive from Monrovia, I watched a youth group perform a skit they had written to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. Women’s and men’s groups, called “action groups,” and sponsored by the IRC, performed plays and songs about women’s rights. Their message: rape and domestic violence, major problems in post-war Liberia, would not be tolerated.
I also visited many IRC-supported small businesses. My favorite was a shop that taught women to tie-die fabric in fabulous colors and designs and then helped the women sell the fabric at markets or in their own shops.
On this, my second trip to Liberia, I’ll be traveling to Nimba County, in the north of the country. Nimba County is where former dictator Charles Taylor, who is now on trial for war crimes at The Hague, forced many children to join his army and abducted women and girls to become sex slaves. There, I’ll be exploring and writing about the IRC’s efforts to assist Liberians who were displaced during the fifteen-year long civil war. I’ll visit a clinic, a school, a radio station, and an agricultural project, among other IRC initiatives. Whether it is treating patients, educating children, or helping small businesses get on their feet, the IRC is working with Liberians to create a better future for their families and their country.
I’m also going to Liberia with a special mission in mind: to meet and listen to Liberian teenagers who have been through so much and then to bring their stories back to teenagers in America. In this ever smaller world, being able to share our different experiences and cultures is more important than ever.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to taking this exciting journey with you.
Read all of Emily’s posts from Liberia here.
Posted by Kate Sands Adams on 14 December, 2007
Video: The IRC
|The IRC’s Marc Sirkin is just back from Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where he caught this amazing rap from a group of young refugees who were rehearsing for a World AIDS Day performance. The lyrics:\
Give me an H ……I give you an H
Give me a / ……… I give you a /
Give me an A………I give you an A
Make a decision base on facts and not fear.
I remember, in some countries, some business owners ask people who are looking
We still facing the challenge of working and living with HIV every day
Learn how the International Rescue Committee is helping to prevent the spread of HIV and support people living with the disease in our World Aids Day special report.