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Community health monitoring programs paying off

By Sarah Namulondo

An initiative to involve Ugandans in monitoring health programs within their communities is paying off according to the latest review done by the Open Society Initiative for East Africa (OSIEA).

Christine Munduru, the health and rights program officer for Open Society Initiative for East Africa has particularly commended the success of the community monitoring programmes in Oyam and Masaka districts, two of the 12 districts where this program is running.

The community monitoring program began in July 2011 by the UNCHO with the intention of facilitating effective participation of communities to monitor aspects of health services by demanding accountability for medicines’ availability, deliveries, and for human resources to respect the rights of patients.

John Patrick Alara, a community monitoring secretary from Oyam district said before the UNCHO came to Oyam, they did not know what the patients’ health rights were, the workload at Agulurude Health Centre III was more than the staff available, and the attitude of the health workers was bad.

‘‘That has totally changed,’’ he said.   “Through the program, we have mobilized the community into getting involved with cleaning of the health facilities, grown a positive relationship among health workers, management and community members.”

The same is happening in Masaka where communities come up with their own health chart (some sort of audit report), health workers also come up with their own chart. Then they later interface with the communities and come up with the way forward for better health care provision.

Munduru said the program will help in influencing the health sector output with the limited resources allocated to them because community involvement brings a feeling of ownership and responsibility is inevitable.

She also said with good prioritizing, allocation, planning and utilization of funds, the sector will improve output before increase of the budget to the sector.

Munduru added there is a constitutional problem with the health rights because they are not provided for in the constitution of Uganda. She said the reason as to why all health rights cases are thrown out of court is because the judges have never handled such cases and the constitution does not provide for them. However, Munduru said with time the constitution will be amended.

The community monitoring program is overseen by the Uganda National Health Consumer’s Organisation (UNCHO), and Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) for legal matters. This programme is supported by Open Society Initiative East Africa and Open Society Foundation.

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