Here’s how you can meet Denish…
A 10-hour journey in good, well maintained and mostly comfortable UN 4wd (or 12 hours by bus) from Kampala, capital of Uganda, to Moroto in north-eastern Karamoja Region → Drive a further 3.5 hours, if dry or double that or not at all if is wet, which is frequent, to Amudat town, the major ‘town’ of the Amudat District (pop. around 300) → then drive another hour to Alakas Health Clinic!
There you will find Kinyera Denish, a comprehensive nurse – meaning he is an enrolled nurse and can assist as a midwife. Denish is the second in charge of the Alakas health facility.
It is common for me to visit such health clinics in my role with UNICEF and as a part of the Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) program. On my field visits I meet with the District Health Officer and Office and then go on visits to health facilities in that District. This time we decided to visit the health facility that Denish is a part of.
At such health facilities I ask a number of questions on polio and routine immunization in regards to communications, social mobilization and health education to the health care workers and the communities they serve.
And here’s why you would want to meet Denish…
I would love to say Denish is one of a kind, and he is but also he is not. The vast majority of the health care workers in these remote areas and all over the country are incredibly dedicated, experienced and knowledgeable. They face challenges with ideas and action rather than giving up or even a good try.
Before I talk down Denish too much I want this blog to be about him and the amazing person and nurse that he is, but please know Denish is just one of many like peers.
I don’t know how old Denish is and anyone else who sees his picture I think would be similarly bamboozled. Within the first 3 minutes of meeting Denish he has conversed in three languages and I am sure he has more up his sleeve. He is from the same northern region as my UNICEF counter-part (language 1), he converses with me in English (language 2) and he has fluently picked up the local language (language 3) where he has served for just over a year.
As with most question session I start with the basics:
- Do you have materials to show people about immunization to sensitize them?
- Do you know your hard to reach groups and are they located on a social map?
- Is your Health Unit Management Committee (HUMC) functioning?
- Do you know about the polio outbreak in neighbouring Kenya and also Somalia? Etc…
Denish not only has very informed answers, answering on behalf of the in-charge of the health facility who is away for a meeting that day but he has displayed around the room – all possible charts, information, maps and more. The one chart he doesn’t have that I ask him about is because he his marker ran out and he hasn’t been able to travel the 4.5 hours to Moroto to replace it yet!
Denish emits a confidence and genuine sense of knowledge and understanding of the communities he serves. This service often includes long outreaches by motorbike and foot. I also feel he is not giving me the answers I want to hear, he is not trying to impress anyone, he is just giving the cold hard facts for the best for his community. One of the ways I know this is in one of his responses to servicing remote out-reach communities and he says: ‘I must be honest, there is one community I didn’t get to in the past 2 weeks because when I was approaching that community there was a big storm (it’s rainy season) and then I got through the slippery roads and came to the last creek crossing which had become a river. I was on one side and the community were waiting for me on the other but there was nothing we could do!’. I did suggest he could have loaded syringes with vaccine and javelin them across the river to land in the thigh of the needy 9-month old for their measles injection.
Denish is someone who probably doesn’t receive many accolades for his service, he probably doesn’t make a lot of money, he is away from his family base, he has limited access to power and I am sure works as hard as any other health care worker in this world.
But Denish is probably the key cog of the machine that is not only seeing the global eradication of polio progress but saving lives in the communities he serves each and every day and providing them the best starting opportunity in life.
Denish thank you for your service to your community, country and the world, these are the true heroes of improving the lives of the poorest and seeing an eventual end to extreme poverty.
Be sure to support Denish and the campaign to see free telecommunications for all sub-Saharan health care workers – http://www.globalcitizen.org/Content/Content.aspx?id=95a713b3-1112-4c06-b9a1-a9c043097cce&rby=40fb91c9-dbe5-4f6c-b63f-5b2856f1881f and see One Million Community Health Workers