Ndawula (seated in a green T-shirt) interacts with the psychosocial team during one of the home visits.
Ndawula, a 32-year-old market vendor and father of three from Kangulumira Village in Mubende District is frequently seen gardening with his daughters, who are 12 and seven- years-old. Three months ago, this same garden was neglected, covered with weeds, and abandoned because his wife, who frequently tended the garden, got a fever and started vomiting. All attempts to treat her at several clinics were futile, so she was transferred to Mubende Regional Referral Hospital (RRH) where she was diagnosed with the dreadful Ebola Disease and passed away after a few days.
Following this tragic event, tests for ten family members including Ndawula who had been in regular contact with her, returned positive. While Ndawula survived and was discharged by the hospital, he lost four more family members, including his four-year-old son, plunging him into depression. With psychosocial support, he eventually recovered.
Ndawula’s journey to recovery started the day a team of psychosocial counselors from the USAID-supported Ebola Virus Disease Survivors Program visited him at his home. The program is implemented by Baylor Uganda in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. It offers medical care, mental health and psychosocial support services to Ebola survivors and assists them to reintegrate into their communities. Numerous studies have shown that Ebola survivors suffer from various forms of psychological distress, and Ndawula was no exception. He was suffering from depression, anxiety, sadness, grief and anger and had locked himself in his bedroom.
This catastrophe and the costs associated with treatment at the clinics left him financially strained and mentally drained. Besides using up all his savings to cover his deceased wife’s clinic bills before she was admitted at Mubende RRH, the lockdown that had been implemented to restrict the disease’s spread further prevented Ndawula from going to the various markets, where he used to sell garments in mobile markets. This had paralyzed his movements and operations. The community’s social stigma and discrimination directed at them further aggravated his situation. The National Ebola Virus Disease Survivors Program sprang into action to provide frequent home counselling visits, family dialogues and community discussions to help Ndawula overcome his psychological distress.
“Due to the suffering and sadness we were experiencing when the counselors arrived at my house, I did not want to see or speak to anyone,” narrates Ndawula. “The team progressively assisted me in accepting that I had little control over the loss from the Ebola disease, and encouraged me to hold on to the remaining important things in my life,” adds Ndawula. Ndawula is grateful to the psychosocial team for not giving up on him. Ndawula, who has since reopened his second-hand clothing store and resumed interactions with the people in his neighbourhood, claims “In my entire life, I had never been visited or received as much help from anyone as I did from the counselors”.
Today, eighty-seven survivors, including Ndawula and his children, have been able to move past their horrifying experiences and rebuild their lives thanks to the medical and psychological interventions provided by the Ministry of Health and the USAID-supported National Ebola Virus Survivors Program.
Baylor-Uganda’s Global Health Security (GHS) Program works with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other partners to improve health security and build International Health Regulations core capacities in the Republic of Uganda. The program operates at the national, subnational levels (covering four regions of Rwenzori, Bunyoro, Soroti and Kampala) health facility and community levels and has contributed to strengthening country-level capacity to prevent and detect and respond to public health threats of national and international concern. Our GHS capacity is distinctive in Uganda, covering rural and rural settings across five action packages under the global health security agenda (GHSA), including 1) Public Health surveillance, 2) National Laboratory Systems, 3) Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) prevention and control; 4) Border Health Security/ Points of Entry (POE); 5) Public health emergency preparedness and response.