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.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mosquito repellent is the new Chanel no. 5

An easy conversation opener for any traveler to SSA (Sub Saharan Africa) is anything having to do with mosquitoes. How bad they are this trip compared to the last? Does your bednet fit? How did any mosquitoes get inside the bednet? and maybe there are more inside than out? We're comparing notes on which anti-malarial is better, and where it's cheapest to buy at home. Mostly, we reassure ourselves that getting bitten is really okay, because not all mosquitoes carry malaria anyway.

Parvin kindly schooled me on all the details of bednets, bednets, bednets. My first lesson in how to use a bednet was that they should not rest on the floor, rather they should gather on the top of the bed to form a tighter seal. This means that you brush up against them at night, which feels weird on my skin. Also, it means that the size of my bed is now smaller than before. My second lesson was a much needed safety pin to close the gap in the front of my netting. My amateur status shone like a new sheriff's badge! The first night, I felt a bit like a princess in a canopy bed or a really tall tent. The next morning, I wondered if I could get away with not using it at all. My mind quickly changed when the buzzing in my ears started.

I've asked several of the Ugandans I've met if they use bednets. A few yes, a few no. One said, "No, because it [malaria] affects children much more, besides, our blood is strong." Okay, I thought, but I've heard it does a number on adults, too. Another person told me it's just too hot to use them and he doesn't have a fan. Fans cost money to buy, and electricity is expensive. Also, this is a tropical climate, so the fan would be running all year, every day.

In another nod to public health interventions that prevent clinical situations, my Health Behavior Health Education (HBHE) training kicked in, and I wondered how to convince someone to change their sleep environment. Are you willing to give up your bed, your comfy sanctuary, your place of rest to live under a dome of netting for the rest of your nights, every night? Maybe it's an economic decision. Maybe it's just really hard to change habits. The bednets themselves are low hanging fruit, but the willingness to adopt is that last puzzle piece that's hiding under the table.

I remember growing up reading recommendations on how to not get bitten by mosquitos. This advice included a) don't wear light colors b) stay indoors at dusk and dawn and c) don't wear perfume. These recommendations were written by people who were not living out of a suitcase and had plenty of air conditioning. They had the choice to be inside our outdoors, with vented stoves and clothes dryers. The reality is that you wear what you have; here it's cooler to be outside than in and the heavy fragrance additives in most spray repellants would induce nausea if mixed with other scents.

And, with that, I wind this post down. I think there are one or two of the little skeeters in my net tonight. Hopefully they'll find their ways out just like they found a way in - without tasting this mzungu juice.

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