New Project Will Improve Essential Health Services in War-Torn Northern Uganda

Thanks to a new five-year, $50 million cooperative agreement awarded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), IntraHealth International will soon be making health services more widely available—and improving their quality—in Northern Uganda. IntraHealth has been named a leading subcontractor under its partner Plan International USA and will help strengthen the Ugandan health workforce as part of the project called Northern Uganda-Health Integration to Enhance Services (NU-HITES).

Decades of violence and instability left Northern Uganda’s population scattered and its local health care systems devastated. But the region has become more stable since peace talks in 2006, and some 1.8 million displaced Ugandans have returned to their homes. Now health officials there face enormous public health challenges, such as availability of basic care, disease management, and outbreak response.

Uganda’s population growth rate is now one of the highest in the world. Its population will likely double by 2024. In the northern region, HIV rates are higher than the national average, and so are rates of underweight children and child mortality. Prevalence of contraceptives (11%) and skilled birth attendance (11%) are the lowest in the country. Women and children suffer disproportionally.

The NU-HITES project will focus on encouraging more women, girls, and children to use available health services, as well as on strengthening systems to deliver integrated health services that are effective and sustainable.

“I am thrilled that we are expanding our work to strengthen the Ugandan health workforce,” said Vincent Oketcho, chief of party on the Uganda Capacity Program. “We’re very excited to increase access to quality health care in this region, where it is most needed.”

The Ugandan health care system suffers from a complex set of factors, including vacant positions, low pay, difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff, and too few resources to improve the quality of services. System officials also don’t have the training and resources they need to carry out policies and protocols.

IntraHealth and its partners will work with the Government of Uganda to strengthen the health care system so that health workers are available and prepared to provide services for reproductive health, family planning, malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.

Through human resources training offered by IntraHealth, local managers will learn how to recruit the best health workers, train and retain their employees, and keep their staffs motivated. IntraHealth will also work to improve existing information management systems so that timely, high-quality data about health and personnel are available to those who need it. The result will be a stronger, better-trained, better-informed health workforce for Northern Uganda.

The NU-HITES project is led by Plan International USA and includes Tulane University, the AIDS Support Organization, Uganda Health Marketing Group, and Communications for Development Foundation of Uganda.