72 km north of a town called Lira lies a clinic – The Kristina Health Clinic. What should be an hour drive draws out to 2 as you navigate the potholes and rocks along the bumpy red dirt road. Rows of sunflowers and mudhuts here and there catch your eye, the window providing an insight into a world unknown.
The clinic comes into sight; three stand alone buildings offering hope through basic medical services. The mango tree provides shelter from the blazing Ugandan sun, as mothers to be wander the grounds, anticipating the arrival of another family member. The ambulance parked onsite is on call for emergencies, ready to travel along the road that you came.
It’s peaceful here.
We are incredibly proud of the Kristina Health Clinic.
Opened in 2012, the centre was a dream of co-founder Julius Achon. His mother died in the village where the clinic stands in 2004 from a gunshot wound. Had she access to basic medical care, Kristina would have survived.
Monthly reports depict a centre that cares for hundreds a month. Whether maternity related, immunisations, dental care or general medical care, the KHC treats over 600 people a month.
As is the case with every great project, the question “How do we move forward?” arose. Being in remote, rural northern Uganda, there was no shortage of answers to that question. Need presents itself left, right and centre.
Reviews of monthly reports and extensive discussions with the Love Mercy team on the ground drew us to the conclusion that, without doubt, the need lay greatest with Maternity Services. Women were walking hours (often in labour) to the clinic to receive care. Our ultimate goal became to offer the best maternity care in the district, with services that would enable women to deliver their babies safely into this world.
We decided to send an Australian qualified midwife to stay in Lira and work at the clinic for a few months. It would provide insight and generate ideas that would result in the most progress and helpful developments.
Kristy is a midwife who works at Wollongong Hospital. She volunteered her time and skills at the KHC from November 2017 through to February 2018. Working alongside the midwives, Kristy helped develop and implement procedures and policies, as well as offering further training and recommendations as to what needed improvement.
What is giving birth in Uganda actually like?
In most clinics, it is a common practice during childbirth or a midwife to hit a woman. It is a way of ‘encouraging’ a labouring woman to continue pushing.
Midwives at KHC do not engage with this practice in any instance. As a result, it is often the deciding factor when a woman considers whether or not to go to a clinic.
At other clinics, is common for midwives to request and take bribes for essential or ‘extra’ care. an example would be a midwife refusing to help a labouring woman as she begins pushing unless her family hands over money.
This practice is banned at the Kristina Clinic, and staff are well aware that dismissal is the consequence of such behaviour.
The Kristina Clinic does not discriminate, it does not give one woman access and not another.
“During my time at the clinic, midwives manually bagged a baby in respiratory distress for over three hours.” The midwives are committed to babies survival.
This kind of information and insight has allowed us to move forward in building a complete, stand alone Maternity ward. fully solar powered and able to handle emergency situations, the ward will provide care that many clinics throughout Uganda simply cannot.
Kristy’s presence on the ground was incredibly encouraging for our staff. They felt supported and valued. The work that she was able to accomplish has gone toward saving the lives of many mothers and babies.