Moses Kyangwa is a public health scientist from Uganda’s Busoga region. He graduated from Save the Mothers’ Master of Public Health Leadership program in October, 2015. Today, at 30 years of age, he remains enthusiastic about promoting maternal health and the overall well-being of women and children—particularly in rural Uganda where so many die of preventable causes related to poor maternal health practices. We spoke to Moses about his work since graduating from the Save the Mothers program.
STM: How did the Save the Mothers program change your life?
MK: It equipped me to serve my communities well, through the many programs I have developed including:
- The Maama Project to improve maternal and newborn health.
- A maternal and child nutrition program to promote proper nutrition among pregnant women and children (under the age of five) in the Luuka district.
- Health centres, which conduct maternal and child health interventions in the region.
- A maternal and child health rights promotion project, that works in fishing communities
- Vitamin A and Albendazole distribution project: whose main objective is to distribute vitamin A supplements and Albendazole [a medication used to treat parasitic worm infestations] to children in hard-to-reach communities.
- Ultrasound Scan Study, which is testing the feasibility of using second and third trimester scanning to identify high risk pregnancies as a focus for maternal and newborn death reduction.
STM: That’s quite a list! What is your current priority?
MK: My biggest focus is advocating for maternal and child health and safe motherhood on my district health team so as to ensure:
- Access to quality, skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum/postnatal period
- Timely access to emergency obstetric and newborn care
- Access to family planning services to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
STM: You have also created a “Menstrual Hygiene Dignity Project” through which you reach out to schoolgirls with menstrual health and hygiene education, and provide reusable pads so the girls do not have to miss school when they get their monthly periods.
MK: Yes, we are working hard at increasing the girls’ knowledge about menstrual health and hygiene, and destigmatizing menstruation in the Luuka and Iganga districts.
I started this project after doing a study that revealed many negative cultural attitudes around menstruation, especially among men and boys, including the idea that menstruating women and girls are contaminated, dirty and impure. Women and girls in rural settings suffer most from the stigma and lack of services and facilities to help them cope with the physical and psychological pains they undergo during their menstrual periods. There is inadequate preparation for young girls not yet experiencing menstruation, there is a lack of clean water for washing, a lack of materials to manage menstrual hygiene, and inappropriate facilities for disposing of those materials once used. In spite of these issues, menstrual hygiene has been routinely ignored by professionals in the water, health, and education sectors.
Menstruating girls in Luuka primary schools experience isolation and rejection from their fellow pupils. Our surveys have shown that 70 percent of girls report missing from one to three days of primary school per month, which translates to a loss of eight to 24 school days per year, representing 10 percent of a girl’s attendance missed due to menstruation. A majority of these girls note that they are physically sick and weak, and cannot concentrate. Teachers calculate 10 percent of the total number of girls dropping out of school is due to issues related to menstrual management.