Healthcare for the Batwa

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Healthcare for the Batwa
Health and Livelihood Outreach to Batwa Communities in Kisoro District, Uganda

Sustain for Life has supported a comprehensive health outreach service to 24 Batwa pygmy communities since 2010 in the Kisoro District of Southwest Uganda operated by St Francis Mutolere Hospital to provide healthcare, preventative medicine and education to some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

About the Batwa

The Batwa Pygmies currently live in Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are an ancient group of people indigenous to this region who were, until very recently, the long-time hunters and gathers of this area’s forests. They have experienced extreme social and cultural changes in the past several decades due to the loss of their homes and land through aggressive agriculture and poorly executed conservation efforts.

As human pressure on the forests and deforestation increased, the Batwa were forced to look outside of the forests in order to survive. Lacking specialist skills, they mainly worked as labourers for land owners. In 1991 the Batwa were formally evicted from their ancestral forests as they became national parks, losing their last rights to access their land. Since their evictions some 20 years ago, the Batwa have been unable to compete on equal terms with other ethnic groups outside the forest and they remain one of the most marginalised sections of society, both in the region, in Uganda and globally.

How are we helping?

The Batwa have limited access to healthcare due primarily to the costs involved. In addition, many Batwa in the Kisoro district live in hard to reach isolated areas and are unable to walk to the hospital when ill. They rely completely on the outpatient services offered by St Francis Hospital. Sustain for Life is committed to supporting the Batwa Outreach Programme and hopes to make a significant difference to the lives of those vulnerable individuals it reaches. In addition, we hope to support sustainable lives for the Batwa by including agriculture training into the outreach – improving nutrition and potential income-generating prospects.

The objectives of the Batwa Outreach Programme include reduction of mortality, improved environmental sanitation and hygiene practices, better housing conditions, increased usage of health services, and increased school attendance. Through this vital initiative, the Batwa receive the following services:

  • Ante and post-natal care, family planning, support groups to encourage delivery at health facilities, and the encouragement of male involvement in reproductive health activities.
  • Voluntary testing and counselling for HIV/AIDS among Batwa communities, using support groups to identify cases of tuberculosis and linking them to treatment centres, introducing home based management of fever to fight malaria, and the purchase of mosquito nets for all Batwa households.
  • Health education, social mobilisation and the empowerment of peers to identify and refer patients for treatment at the hospital and nearby medical care centres.
  • Food and nutrition programme to identify and manage severely malnourished Batwa children and to conduct nutrition education and demonstrations.
  • Immunisation of all eligible children
  • Batwa treatment and welfare during hospital visits, including food and other essential supplies
  • Training in agriculture, nutrition and food preparation