Living with COVID in a Transformed World

Many politicians now appear to think that if they ignore increasing case rates, growing hospitalisations for COVID and daily death tolls reminiscent of war, the ogre that is COVID will somehow lose interest and go away, never to return. This is magical thinking, which links our fate to a “wait and see mentality.” It gambles the health and wellbeing of countless souls on the belief that if you hope for something to happen with enough fervour, the world will miraculously change for the better. Unfortunately, life is never that simple and the universe is governed by scientific principles centred around cause and effect

By Dr. Brian Johnston

Senior Public Health Specialist

London, United Kingdom

Living with COVID in a Transformed World

 

Across the world, the physical, psychological, social and economic impacts of the pandemic continue to manifest themselves in new and challenging ways, which stretch our ability to find adequate solutions. COVID-19 has been with us for a long time now and seems likely to remain an important and integral part of our collective experience for the foreseeable future.

People often describe “COVID fatigue” and express a bone numbing tiredness and lassitude in the face of the gnawing relentlessness of the pandemic. They continue to contract the virus, get hospitalised and die, but these effects have been largely mitigated through vaccination programmes, especially in developed countries. At the beginning of this year, the medical infrastructure of many countries strained under the onslaught of the virus and struggled to provide effective care to those unfortunate enough to become infected. More recently, the picture has changed – a dim light has replaced dismal darkness, but grey clouds gather on the horizon.

Internationally, the patchiness and inequality of vaccination programmes has left large parts of the world’s population without even a first dose. High numbers of unvaccinated individuals living in deprived areas, without adequate medical care or infrastructure, represents a real danger to us all. How can we consider ourselves safe when the virus can roam relatively unhindered within large populations of unvaccinated people? A new COVID variant taking root in such fertile soil could easily blossom into a florid catastrophe of breath-taking proportions.

From another perspective, the growing challenges of long COVID are now being recognised by health professions across the world, as was recently highlighted in an article in The Lancet journal: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)01900-0

The aftermath and long-term implications of contracting and surviving COVID on multiple organ systems, remains an important area of research.

As our understanding of the long-term consequences of COVID grows, it seems increasingly likely that the virus will continue to affect the lives and livelihoods of millions of people for many years after the initial heat has gone out of the pandemic. This of course assumes that we can extricate ourselves from a persistent cycle of spikes in the number of excess deaths due to COVID -19. Perhaps the virus will become endemic in certain places, a constant presence in specific countries and an ongoing blight on the existence of the local populations. Only time will tell…

Whilst the economic damage created by the virus has serious health and financial implications for large sections of the community, the injudicious easing of restrictions has the danger of perpetuating the spread of infection and fanning the embers of the contagion.

Decision makers must find effective ways of combating COVID which place the minimum restrictions on individuals, whilst gaining the maximum benefits in terms of preventing the spread of the virus. This is a fine balance, which requires clear insight and sound judgement, based on high quality data at both a local and national level. Leaders need to be flexible and learn quickly from mistakes – shared learning, communicated in a clear and timely way, is central to this endeavour.

It is not enough for politicians to say that they are led by “the data” or by “the science.” Data is often subject to multiple interpretations depending on how it is analysed or reported, and science never speaks with a single voice, but from a multitude of competing perspectives, clamouring to be heard.

Vaccinations, whilst a great blessing, have led to a certain amount of complacency among some politicians and health decision makers dealing with COVID. It has been a tough journey for everyone affected by the virus over the past 18 months and some of the scars may never heal completely. The latent damage incurred by delayed operations, stress, mental illness and the economic impact on both jobs and businesses, is likely to continue for many years to come.

Against this background, the need for strong leadership coupled with a clear understanding of the current situation is of paramount importance. Learning from mistakes made in other countries is to be welcomed as it saves time, money and lives.

When change is destructive and threatening, like a stormy sea, it is not enough to float passively on the surface and hope to ride the waves until they eventually lose their energy. If COVID has taught us anything, it is that change can be quick and unpredictable. Challenges can come from places where you least expect them and remain hidden until the last minute, like shallow reefs beneath the surface.

The effects of some measures designed to restrict the spread of the virus have inevitably had economic repercussions and negatively impacted our mental and physical health. However, in the journey towards normality and a future no longer tainted by COVID, it would be unwise to abandon these measures entirely. Instead, a flexible approach which addresses the current dangers with reasonable solutions would seem to be the best path. If we run too quickly along a poorly lit road without adequate protection, we are in danger of stumbling or worse still, being cut to shreds by unseen forces before we can avoid them.

Human beings are complex and their behaviour when faced with existential threat can take a number of forms, which often makes things worse. Many politicians now appear to think that if they ignore increasing case rates, growing hospitalisations for COVID and daily death tolls reminiscent of war, the ogre that is COVID will somehow lose interest and go away, never to return. This is magical thinking, which links our fate to a “wait and see mentality.” It gambles the health and wellbeing of countless souls on the belief that if you hope for something to happen with enough fervour, the world will miraculously change for the better. Unfortunately, life is never that simple and the universe is governed by scientific principles centred around cause and effect.

Wearing masks, good ventilation, social distancing, washing hands and self-isolation have all been shown to be effective ways to curb the spread of the virus. This knowledge has been bought in blood and so it is not only unwise, but negligent, for decision makers to relax these measures without a full, comprehensive, ongoing and careful assessment of the risks involved. A flexible approach to the management of the pandemic is required if we are to negotiate the ever-present dangers created by the constantly changing landscape that is COVID-19.

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By the same Author on PEAH


Death in the Time of COVID


Unleashing the True Potential of Data – COVID-19 and Beyond
 

 

 

News Flash 451: Weekly Snapshot of Public Health Challenges

News Flash Links, as part of the research project PEAH (Policies for Equitable Access to Health), aim to focus on the latest challenges by trade and governments rules to equitable access to health in resource-limited settings

News Flash 451

Weekly Snapshot of Public Health Challenges

 

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5 Reasons to Support the European Citizens’ Initiative No Profit on Pandemic

On 30 November, 2020, a number of European organisations, NGOs, trade unions, healthcare associations, political parties and student movements launched a European Citizens’ Initiative to demand clauses on equal distribution, affordability, accessibility and transparency of vaccines and treatments against Covid-19.

 This article highlights five reasons to support the European Citizens' Initiative 

Sign the initiative here: www.noprofitonpandemic.eu

  By Julie Steendam

Campaign coordinator

European Citizens’ Initiative Right to Cure – No Profit on Pandemic

 5 Reasons to Support the European Citizens’ Initiative No Profit on Pandemic

 

Ensuring fair and equitable access to safe vaccines and treatments is one of the biggest challenges of these times.

That’s why 375 European organisations have put their weight behind the European Citizens Initiative No Profit on Pandemic. Together, they have the ambition to encourage one million European citizens to sign a legislative proposal to the European Commission.

What is a European Citizens’ Initiative?

EU citizens have the right to address the European Commission directly via a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) in order to propose a concrete legislative amendment. When the petition collects one million signatures in at least a quarter of the EU Member States, the European Commission is legally obliged to respond to the demands. In other words: this is a powerful democratic tool. 

On 30 November, 2020, a number of  European organisations, NGOs, trade unions, healthcare associations, political parties and student movements launched an ECI to demand clauses on equal distribution, affordability, accessibility and transparency of vaccines and treatments against Covid-19.

Five reasons to support the European Citizens’ Initiative 

No. 1: Protecting everyone equally

In May 2021, the World Health Organization’s director called the current unequal access to Covid-19 vaccines a situation of ‘vaccine apartheid’. By September 2021, the richest nations, which make up just 13% of the world’s population, have administered 90% of all available vaccine doses.  If this trend continues, the poorest countries will simply not be able to vaccinate their populations by early 2023. At the current pace, some might even need another 57 years to get to 75% vaccination rate!

Facilitating access to vaccines for all those who need them is not only a matter of justice, it’s also a matter of common sense in the face of a global epidemic. We will only end the crisis once the emergence of new virus strains is controlled around the world.

No. 2: Ensuring transparency restores confidence

The unprecedented speed of the development of Covid-19 vaccines, often based on new innovative technologies, has provoked legitimate questions from members of the public. Their concerns must be answered with the utmost transparency.

However, the European Commission, which has received a mandate from the EU Member States to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, remains dangerously opaque on the conditions of the contracts. We demand full transparency on the sale prices and on the results of research and clinical trials. This is a non-negotiable step for restoring the trust of citizens.

No. 3: Demanding public control over use of public money

 Since the onset of the health crisis, governments around the world have mobilised nearly US$10 billion in public funds for research and development of vaccines and other treatments against Covid-19.

But there are very few controls and conditions demanded in exchange for all these billions. Pharmaceutical companies remain free to set their prices on the sale of vaccine doses, which range from US$3 to more than US$30 per dose. Pfizer is shamelessly making a profit margin of 20-30%. At a time when millions of people are dying from Covid-19, and up to 500 million people worldwide could be pushed into poverty due to the economic consequences of the pandemic, such profits are unethical.

No. 4: Putting Cooperation before Competition 

The system of patents and intellectual property rights guarantee pharmaceutical companies a monopoly on their production, marketing and pricing. Despite the enormous need to accelerate vaccine production, only Pfizer has the exclusive right to produce its vaccine for the sole purpose of guaranteeing its profits.

This is the same system that for years has prevented millions of people living with HIV and AIDS from accessing life-saving treatments. This system must be challenged to allow all countries with the capacity to produce these vaccines to do so, especially since the big contributions of public money. Steps have been taken by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to suspend intellectual property agreements. But the rich countries, led by the EU, have been opposing this for a year now. Are the benefits of pharma companies really worth more than our lives and health?

No. 5: People have the power 

As EU citizens, we have the power to change this situation. It was thanks to public pressure that the European Commission started to publish some of its contracts with pharmaceutical companies. And during the HIV crisis, massive public mobilisation forced pharmaceutical companies to drop their monopolies.

When we reach one million signatures, the European Commission will have to respond to our demands for transparency, accountability and equal access to these life-saving products. Together, we can make sure that everyone, everywhere is safe.

 

Sign the European Citizens’ Initiative today by going to www.noprofitonpandemic.eu

News Flash 450: Weekly Snapshot of Public Health Challenges

News Flash Links, as part of the research project PEAH (Policies for Equitable Access to Health), aim to focus on the latest challenges by trade and governments rules to equitable access to health in resource-limited settings

News Flash 450

Weekly Snapshot of Public Health Challenges

 

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News Flash 449: Weekly Snapshot of Public Health Challenges

News Flash Links, as part of the research project PEAH (Policies for Equitable Access to Health), aim to focus on the latest challenges by trade and governments rules to equitable access to health in resource-limited settings

News Flash 449

Weekly Snapshot of Public Health Challenges

 

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The Cut to Universal Credit in the UK is a Threat to the Health of the Most Deprived

...The UK desperately needs a health and equity-focused recovery. By cutting Universal Credit and putting people into fuel poverty, the government is further entrenching health inequities which will be felt for years to come. This cannot be the way forward; the government must support those on low incomes to ensure health, especially through winter, is prioritised...

 By Rebecca Barlow-Noone

MSc Population Health student, University College London (UK)

 

The Cut to Universal Credit in the UK is a Threat to the Health of the Most Deprived

 

Millions of households in the UK rely on Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit (UC/WTC), which is due to be cut by £20 on October 6th 2021, back to pre-pandemic rates. Removing the uplift, at the height of an energy crisis, at the same time as stopping furlough, and with inflation up 3.2% since last August, is a risk to public health and is a damning reflection on the state of inequality in the UK.

Throughout the pandemic, we saw how existing health inequities left those in lower socioeconomic positions more at risk of Covid-19, as shown by the Institute of Health Equity. Areas with high levels of deprivation such as Greater Manchester had a 25% higher Covid-19 death rate than the England average from the start of the pandemic to March 2021, causing life expectancy to decrease.  Those living in crowded accommodation, with frontline work such as cleaning (who were also disproportionately from ethnic minority groups), and those who could not afford to self-isolate saw higher risk of mortality. Those relying on UC doubled, and demand for food banks went up 33% in 2020-2021 since the previous year, highlighting the extent of economic insecurity, even with the £20 uplift; putting food package demand at 128% higher than it was 5 years ago.

This makes it all the more shocking that UC will be cut as energy prices rise. It is well documented that cold, damp housing has direct health effects such as increasing vulnerability to respiratory illness and circulatory disorders, and indirect exacerbation of flu, arthritis and rheumatism. 30% excess winter mortality cases in Europe are suggested to be caused by cold housing by the World Health Organisation; a figure calculated before the effects of Covid-19 on excess winter mortality.

Furthermore, the fuel price increase will hit those most vulnerable to fuel poverty the most. Research by the Resolution Foundation found that the energy price increases are also set to disproportionately hit households receiving UC: the prepayment meter cap is due to increase by £153 to £1309, and a smaller increase of £139 to £1277 for default tariffs. As 4 out of 10 households receiving UC use pre-payment meters versus 1 out of 10 households without UC, the highest costs are more likely to be seen by those most vulnerable to fuel poverty. Together with the £20 cut and the loss of the furlough scheme, this makes the possibility of exacerbating fuel poverty rates, and the consequent risks to health, even more likely.

Concerningly, there has not been a formal evaluation of the effects of the UC cut by the UK government, as explained by the Work and Pensions Minister Baroness Stedman-Scott, because the uplift was deemed temporary; leaving the government unbound by the requirement to carry out an impact assessment. This leaves us to rely on think tank estimates, such as the Legatum Institute. They estimate the UC cut will push 840,000 more people into poverty. This is not simply an economic policy reversal; this is a threat to the health and wellbeing of almost 1 million people.

The UK desperately needs a health and equity-focused recovery. By cutting UC and putting people into fuel poverty, the government is further entrenching health inequities which will be felt for years to come. This cannot be the way forward; the government must support those on low incomes to ensure health, especially through winter, is prioritised. If the government can enthusiastically budget £106bn on the HS2 rail line and maintain its construction post-pandemic, extending the uplift (at an estimated at an annual cost of £6bn) doesn’t seem too much to ask.

Covid exacerbated health inequities; let’s not let policy decisions further entrench them.

 

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By the same Author on PEAH

The NHS Postcode Lottery: How the Decision-Making Power of Clinical Commissioning Groups is Preventing Standardised, Equal Access to the Abbott Freestyle Libre in England 

Novo Nordisk’s Changing Diabetes Aid Programme Exacerbates Issues of Insulin Access, and Must End for Compulsory Licensing to be Effective 

 

News Flash 448: Weekly Snapshot of Public Health Challenges

News Flash Links, as part of the research project PEAH (Policies for Equitable Access to Health), aim to focus on the latest challenges by trade and governments rules to equitable access to health in resource-limited settings

News Flash 448

Weekly Snapshot of Public Health Challenges

 

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Access to Corona Vaccination only for the Rich

As per UN Secretary General Guterres: "Nobody is safe from COVID 19 until everyone has had a vaccination offer".

Disappointingly, while the global need is very large, the main amount of vaccine is accumulated in very few and very rich states, which make up only 13% of the world's population but has reserved more than half of the global vaccine doses. Many poor countries go away completely empty-handed

By Dr. med. Christiane Fischer

Chairwoman of the PHM Germany

Access to Corona Vaccination only for the Rich

 

An application to the World Trade Organization (WTO), submitted by South Africa and India and supported by more than 100 other member states, is intended to facilitate the production of and access to vaccines for the time of the pandemic, but is currently blocked by a few countries including Germany.

Amazingly, the Biden government supports the proposal. The reaction of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, must also be assessed in this sense: Since the pandemic represents a threat to all of humanity, individual commercial interests must take second place. The expressed readiness to discuss the proposal must lead to a constructive participation in the negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO)!

Above all, the governments of the rich countries in the WTO have over the past few months blocked the proposal. The proposal was supported by more than 100 economically disadvantaged countries, to suspend patents and other intellectual property rights for all pandemic control technologies for the duration of the pandemic.

Monopoly rights, including patents, represent shackles that restrict the free and quick action of all actors who want to get involved in the provision of vaccines, drugs, diagnostics or protective materials. It is imperative to remove any barriers to the global production and distribution of vaccines and other relevant medical devices.

The negotiations within the framework of the WTO must therefore be brought to a conclusion without delay or legal gimmicks. This must apply to vaccines as well as to all aids required to cope with the pandemic. Rich states like Germany in particular must take responsibility for the well-being of humanity and, by renouncing patents, make an active contribution to global vaccine distribution based on global demand! While the global need is very large, the main amount of vaccine is accumulated in very few and very rich states, which make up only 13% of the world’s population but has reserved more than half of the global vaccine doses. Many poor countries go away completely empty-handed.

But the pandemic will only be over when everyone can get vaccinated. UN Secretary General António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres emphasizes this by saying: “Nobody is safe from COVID 19 until everyone has had a vaccination offer” and warns against vaccine nationalism. In order to achieve a fair distribution, all the hurdles that stand in the way of effectively overcoming the pandemic must be overcome: Exclusive rights of use (patents), scientific data and technical know-how. They must be shared with all qualified actors, e.g. in a patent pool for COVID technologies (C-TAP).

The People’s Health Movement

The PHM aims to implement the Alma-Ata Declaration, in which the World Health Organization (WHO) wanted to achieve Health for All by the year 2000 in 1978.

Social, psychological and physical well-being is linked to corresponding political, socio-economic and ecological conditions. The highest possible state of health therefore includes global health, access to medicines, health services and measures to combat the climate crisis. Universal human rights are the ethical basis of our actions. They take precedence over economic interests and contracts.

The human right to the highest possible state of health is listed in Section 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in Section 12 and Section 15 of the International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and is laid down in other international human rights treaties. According to the binding UN interpretation, this includes the right of access to essential medicines, health care and research results. The PHM Germany is a national German-speaking group (Circle).

Further information: https://phmovement.de

As a non-profit association, we are happy to accept donations and issue a donation receipt: IBAN: DE 98 6725 0020 0009 3168 41 BIC: SOLADES1HDB All natural (individuals) and legal (associations) persons can join: https://phmovement.de/beitreten/ Membership is free. We would be pleased if you would support the work of the association with your donation.

Dr. med. Christiane Fischer is chairwoman of the PHM Germany.

Contact: Hohegasse 1, 69181 Leimen; Email: fischer@phmovement.de

 

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By the same Author on PEAH

Action Alliance “Training 2020” – An Alliance for Independent Continuing Medical Education by Christiane Fischer

Corrupt Medical Practices in Germany by Christiane Fisher

 

News Flash 447: Weekly Snapshot of Public Health Challenges

News Flash Links, as part of the research project PEAH (Policies for Equitable Access to Health), aim to focus on the latest challenges by trade and governments rules to equitable access to health in resource-limited settings

News Flash 447

Weekly Snapshot of Public Health Challenges

 

From food insecurity to the UN’s future: What we’re watching at the UNGA 

Meeting Registration: Reclaiming Public Health – Experiences & Insights from Europe Sep 29, 2021 02:30 PM in Brussels

High Level Dialogue: TRIPS Waiver – Challenges & Opportunities

2021 State of the Union Address by President von der Leyen

State of the European Union: More hollow promises about a global COVID-19 vaccine equity?

European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority (HERA): Getting ready for future health emergencies

We don’t have to fly blind into the next pandemic

What is the missing ingredient in global pandemic preparedness and response?

How Parents Can Support Kids’ Mental Health During COVID-19

Equipping Health Workers on the Front Lines With Adaptable COVID-19 Digital Resources

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Weekly Update

FDA panel votes against Pfizer’s Covid-19 booster jab application

COVID-19 vaccine alliance chair: African political leadership lacking

Opinion | Booster Shots Would Be Better Spent Saving African Lives

Africa hinges hopes for COVID-19 vaccine equity on US

How Manila is using its COVID-19 response to find TB patients

Now we know: typhoid conjugate vaccines are highly effective in African children

The quality of medical products for cardiovascular diseases: a gap in global cardiac care

The Medicines Patent Pool secures its first licence on promising long-acting technologies for malaria, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C

Interview to Dr. Trudy Masembe, CINTA Foundation Uganda by Daniele Dionisio 

Taliban ban girls from secondary education in Afghanistan

One million Nigerian children to miss school due to mass kidnappings, UNICEF says

White House, House Homeland Security chair denounce “horrific” mistreatment of Haitian migrants by Border Patrol officers

New bulletin on health: People’s Health Dispatch

WHO/ILO: Almost 2 million people die from work-related causes each year

MEPs prod Commission to chart animal testing phase out

The Corporate Capture of the UN Food Summit

World’s two largest economies commit to climate action – Guterres

Close to the edge: Climate Change: Focus on Africa, Asia and Coastal Poor

Climate pledges tough to secure before COP26 summit, PM warns

Rich countries not providing poor with pledged climate finance, analysis says

EU, US urge others to join methane reduction pledge

Call for Emergency Action to Limit Global Temperature Increases, Restore Biodiversity, and Protect Health

Over 200 companies pledge net-zero emissions by 2040 as pressure on private sector mounts

Germany: Five Areas for COP and G7 Climate and Development Leadership

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview: Dr. Trudy Masembe, CINTA Foundation Uganda

CINTA Foundation – Uganda is a Kampala based Non-Government 0rganization founded in 2014 and registered in 2015, registration No. 11351. CINTA core programs include education support, skills training, economic empowerment and reproductive health& HIV/AIDS. Currently, the Foundation is operating in regions of Central and Eastern Uganda. 

In this connection, PEAH had the pleasure to interview CINTA Executive Director Dr. Gertrude Masembe

 By Daniele Dionisio

PEAH – Policies for Equitable Access to Health

 Interview

  Dr. Gertrude Masembe*

Executive Director, CINTA Foundation

Kampala, Uganda 

 

PEAH: Dr. Masembe, CINTA Foundation is an NGO working with implementation of core programs such as education support, skills training, economic empowerment and reproductive health& HIV/AIDS. Tell us more, please, around CINTA story and profile.

Masembe: CINTA Foundation Uganda is a registered Non-Government Organization (NGO), implementing activities in various districts of the country. Our vision is “Empowered communities for holistic development” and all programs and hinged on this. Participatory approaches, developing community resource pools and implementing impact based projects for continued sustainability are the main pillars of our work.

The organization was founded by two women, Trudy (Gertrude) and Christine, who had earlier worked with NGOs in various parts of the country implementing and managing community, based projects at  grass root levels. After their official tenure of work they both agreed that they needed to continue working with communities to help address their problems/challenges something they were passionate about. This is how CINTA Foundation Uganda was born, officially registered in 2015 and now looking forward to its 6th anniversary.

Under our education support component we supplement government efforts of ensuring achievement of Social Development Goal No. 4 of “Inclusive and equitable quality education”.  Our programs provide for capacity building of teachers for improved methods of teaching and children performance while reduced absenteeism and increased children participation are achieved through provision of scholastic materials, supplementing feeding programs and sanitary -pad provision for girls.

The program is enriched with mentorship and career guidance for students and it’s during these sessions that we are able to create awareness about Sexual Reproductive Health issues and HIV/AIDS. During these dialogues/ sessions, we focus on Identifying challenges adolescents are likely to face, type of required support, sensitizing about myths and realities about SRH and Menstrual Hygiene management.

CINTA-Uganda also realizes that achievement and sustainability of long term impact goals in communities would be impossible without a multi-pronged approached that embraces skills development, financial support, business management training and establishment of market networks. It’s for this reason that community economic empowerment is taken as the core program, a building block for many of our achievements. This is done with a gender bias because women have been proven to be pivotal points of development and many advantages like education for children, reduced domestic violence, increased participation of women indecision making and overall quality of life have their bearing on increased incomes.

PEAHDr. Masembe, recent achievements by CINTA Foundation include, as declared, pad distribution, skills development for Kawuga Women’s Group, education support, as well as staff capacity building. Can you explain in detail?

Masembe: The organization over the past 5 years has made great strides in terms of achievements in the districts of operation. SRH was our flagship project and to date we have distributed over 3,500 kits of re-usable pads to adolescent girls in Mayuge, Iganga, Mukono and Kayunga districts to ensure they don’t skip school because of lack of sanitary provisions. Over 4,500 adolescents in these districts mainly in secondary schools have benefited from our SRH dialogues and can now handle a number of adolescent challenges and practice proper menstrual hygiene.

These dialogues have been supplemented with career guidance and mentorship sessions to help align learners to their desired goals for the future. In this regard, we are grateful to the Rotaract clubs of Nakawa and Natette that partnered with us to reach out to students in Jinja under their Kakuba Literacy program and outreaches at Kiswa Community Children’s Center.

Another area of intervention has been education support, a program under which we build the capacity of teachers and provide scholastic materials to children and supplemented their school feeding programs for better attendance and performance. Under this arrangement we have worked with Natetta Primary school, Kiswa Community Children center and individual primary school learners in Iganga district.

For the success of our programs, it is critical to have communities supported to increase their incomes so they can independently carry the mantle of family provision and support. It’s for this reason that we partnered with Krochet4Life and trained two (2) women’s group including Kawuga Women’s Group in production of sandal parts for increased household income. CINTA- Uganda after training the beneficiaries provided materials and linked them to buying company for continued production and market. However, it goes without saying that families too need support for basic requirements especially those trapped in the poverty cycle and at stages of fending for survival. This is a story for Katanga Slum Dwellers who could hardly feed their families. CINTA –UG in partners with Christ our Sure Foundation provided home use materials to families to help them cope with life and sustain their children.

Despite the achievements, CINTA-UG faces some challenges with the evolving NGO approaches both in fundraising and project implementation. This calls for continuous capacity building to enable us stay afloat amidst fierce competition for grants and professional staff. It’s therefore with great appreciation that I write about Front Runners League (USA headed by Mary Kurek which offered capacity building for our staff. As a funder, they carefully analyzed each of the staffs challenges and roadmap for better performance and provided mentors with specialties where we had need for training to improve service delivery. Despite the fact that it was a short term arrangement of three months, we can ably say we greatly benefited from this venture.

PEAHOn this wavelength, what about CINTA main purpose?

Masembe: CINTA Uganda’s main purpose is to have “Empowered communities for self-reliance”. This calls for holistic development approaches by not only training beneficiaries and providing financial and education support but also developing capacity within communities so they can continue to handle their own development agenda. Core to our approach is focusing on impact and sustainability as opposed to figures in terms of achievement. 

PEAHIn depth, as regards CINTA activities and approach to sexual and reproductive health issues and strategies of avoiding gender-based violence?

Masembe: True, there was reported Gender Based Violence (GBV) in schools and surprisingly the male gender was equally affected in communities of operation. Many programs have placed great emphasis on the girl child but evidence from our field work suggests boys need to be given equal attention when handling gender based violence. We have therefore brought on board some male volunteers with specialty in handling gender based violence to attend to the matters male students. We also got some literature from World Health Organization (WHO) and Ministry of Health (MoH) to help us address this issue.

To drive our resource pool development agenda, the organization during its outreaches works together with “senior women & men” mandated to handle SRH issues in schools. This helps them build capacity to ably handle both gender based violence and SRH issues among adolescents in a school environment. In the near future we are looking at interfacing with UNICEF so they can work hand in hand with other grass root organizations to address this issue.

At organization level, we are strict about ethics when it comes to conducting office business and have a set of guidelines and rules to be followed by any person employed to work with CINTA-UG as a way of ensuring that GBV issues don’t occur. 

 PEAHAll of this takes into close consideration the devastating effects of COVID-19 pandemic to the lives of the young generation in Uganda, as just stressed in your last article on PEAH. Some additional reflections about? 

Masembe: As earlier highlighted many girls have fallen prey to sexual activity at a young age as they endure long periods out of school and a number transitioned into young mothers. Boys on the hand have resorted to petty jobs for income which greatly affects the mindset of any young child still following through their academic journey. There is therefore need to rebuild social support systems and offer psycho social support to these children if they are to become beneficial members of the communities. It’s also inevitable that vocational skills training is strengthened and promoted to absorb those unable to rejoin the education system but willing to get new skills so they can engage in profitable Income Generating Activities. 

PEAHDoes CINTA work together with national and/or international partners?

Masembe: CINTA Foundation Uganda partners with National Women Council (NWC), a national body mandated to spearhead empowerment of women in Uganda. NWC offers technical support to enable us achieve impact in our programs and sometimes partners with us for smooth delivery of community services. We also appreciate AfriPads and PulseNetwork that offered both technical and financial support for our SRH projects, Crochet4Life for working with us to change the lives of women, and Rotaract clubs of both Nateete & Nakawa that enabled us reach out to populations in areas where we have no coverage. Internationally, we have worked with partners in Australia, USA and currently working with ACWW-UK.

We are grateful to the Local District Administrations of Iganga, Kayunga, Kampala, Mukono and Mayuge that enabled us fulfill our dream of empowering communities for holistic development. 

 PEAHWhat are your duties and tasks in CINTA?

Masembe: As the CEO of the organization, I provide leadership, management oversight, and coordination to a national network of the organization programs in the areas of strategic development, staff management, fundraising, financial management, programmatic management, establishment of accountability standards and partnership management. I am humbled to be at the helm of this young organization and privileged to chase my dream of making a difference in the lives of others. 

PEAHThank you Dr. Masembe for enlightening answers and commendable engagement

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* Gertrude (Trudy) Masembe is an executive leader with proven management background; effective problem-solving skills with ability to work in rapidly changing environments. She has demonstrated expertise in strategic planning, organizational development, project management and business intelligence across diverse spaces in the development sector. She attended Makerere University and specialized in Social Sector Planning and Management. Her passion is community development which cuts across various sectors like health, education and economic empowerment.

E-mail: trudymasembe@hotmail.com 

 

By Dr. Masembe recently on PEAH:

Venomous COVID-19: Ripping the Country of its Valuable Young Generation 

Interventions to Curb Covid-19 Spread in a Low-Income Country: Feasibility Challenges 

Public Health or Poverty Alleviation? What are Mosquito Nets for?