About UNC Project-Uganda

In 2004, a group of UNC physicians established the Amal Murarka International Pediatric Health Foundation in memory of their colleague, Dr. Amal Murarka, who died unexpectedly in 2003. The foundation sent a medical team to Kampala to establish the country's first pediatric intensive care unit at Mulago Hospital, Makerere University, where Dr. Murarka had previously conducted research. Subsequent work in 2007 and 2008 focused on pediatric cardiac surgery. The foundation not only built a cardiac ICU, but also performed a total of 21 life-saving pediatric cardiac surgeries.

In 2008 the foundation partnered with the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases to establish UNC Project-Uganda.


The UNC Project-Uganda was established to support sustainable delivery of compassionate and competent health care to infants, children, and adolescents in Uganda; to improve the medical knowledge of the Ugandan health care workforce through in-country training and a physician exchange program; and to provide advanced medical equipment, medications, and services necessary for the delivery of compassionate and competent pediatric care in Uganda.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Carolina for Kibera

October 23, 2007

Today we were met by Salim Mohamed, Executive Director of Carolina for Kibera and taken to the CFK Office in the Kibera slum on the outskirts of the centre city of Nairobi. The CFK Office is painted a cheerful Carolina blue and a guard is posted at the gate into the office area. But everyone we met was warm and welcoming. We met the CFK program directors and then set off with Salim and Hillary Omala, the Director of the Tabitha Health Clinics.

As Salim and Hillary led us through the narrow passages of clay, we ducked under many metal roofs which overhung the paths. Homes constructed from clay and straw lined the path and we were told that these fragile structures had to be rebuilt after any hard rain.

The first stop was the new Tabitha Clinic which is under construction in the heart of Kibera and where the two clinics will be consolidated once it is completed in early 2008. The foundation is complete and the framing should start soon. We've posted some photos of the construction. Many workers were carrying bags of cement or wheelbarrows full of gravel through the labyrinth of passageways--not an easy access.

Then it was on to visit the first Tabitha Clinic which was founded by the late Tabitha Atieno Festo, a widowed registered nurse from Kibera, with the $26 initial investment made by Rye Barcott from CFK. We met each of the medical team--Mark, Lucy, Julia, Angela and James-- who were busy debriefing about the 120 patients they had seen the previous day. We also met Fred (one of two pharmacists) who presides over the pharmacy.

Next it was off to the Tabitha 2 Clinic which is newer and located across the railroad tracks in the upper area of Kibera. The two clinics are very active and accessible but need more resources. When they are consolidated into the new clinic building, there will still be alot of new equipment needed to meet the communities' needs. It is our hope that we at UNC can help CFK find sources for contributed equipment.

Next we met with Caroline Sakwa, CFK Deputy Director, who directs the Binti Pamoja Center for young women. She describes it as a "safe place" program that seeks to empower and teach self-development skills to the women who have so little opportunity in the slum. Through training and education on subjects such as reproductive health, literacy, HIV, teen pregnancy and sexual abuse, the program trains a cadre of 80 young women in the various villages of Kibera about ways to protect themselves and insure their future. The program employs mentoring, photography, and drama as tools to deal with some tough subjects. Caroline said that UNC could help her program by providing mentoring program prototypes for her to use as models. We will ask the UNC Women's Center to set up regular contact with Caroline and act as a resource for her program.

Next we spent time with Cantar Abdul Hussen who directs the Soccer Program that now comprises 210 teams from all of the 12 villages. This was the first program undertaken by CFK and it has grown to over 4,000 participants. Besides the games and tournaments, the teams participate in community awareness events such as "Kicking AIDS Out" and the Clean-up Days organized in each village in Kibera. Cantar hopes that the program teaches the discipline and focus that each participant will need to lead a successful life. Among the needs of this flagship CFK program are: scholarships to reward winning teams; uniforms, socks & shoes; balls & equipment. In addition, Cantar says that UNC could provide "visiting coaches" from our own teams to mentor and inspire the players, especially the women's teams.

Medina Abakar, directs the Trash is Cash program and is a specialist in waste management. She leads 6 groups of 180 people (90% males) who work in waste management and recycling in all the Kibera villages. This is a sustainable enterprise to put people to work and meet a huge community need. Medina's motto is "Waste isn't Waste until its Wasted." The business has grown so big and fast that hauling off the collected trash has become the challenge. She hopes that they will be able to have a lorry or truck provided in the near future, and eventually be able to employ residents of Kibera in a community waste/recycling processing facility.

Directing the HIV-AIDS Prevention Program for CFK is Mary Waithera who grew up in Kibera (as did Medina). Mary works hard to do community education forums and get info into the homes about ways to prevent HIV infection. Like several of the directors, Mary is a "hometown girl" who is effective because she works with her friends and neighbors who trust her.

What struck us as we met with each of these CFK leaders was how dedicated, strategic, and caring each of them are in pursuit of their program goals. They each spoke with one voice and a strong unity of purpose. They were all careful to build a solid, sustainable plan for their respective program objectives, always being mindful that the communities of Kibera are the primary stakeholders.

The CFK organization is a model for many NGO's hoping to have sustained impact. We were touched by their commitment and humbled by their ability to leverage so much action with so few resources. We hope that everyone will investigate further how they can help these inspiring young adults achieve what few others have done.


Helen Snow and Deborah Sams

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