Makerere University Students win One Health Day Preparation award

Thursday, 11 May 2017 - 1:20pm
OHCEA Network Country: 

In Uganda, most households own pets especially dogs and cats which are used for security and vermin control respectively. However, most pet owners are not aware of rabies; its transmission and first Aid in case bitten by dogs or cats. A group of undergraduate students at Makerere University School of Public Health, organised an awareness campaign on rabies, as one of the activities worldwide to mark One Health Day 2016.  This awareness campaign took place at St. Noah Girls Secondary School, Zana. The event aimed at creating awareness on rabies transmission, first aid and treatment. Permission to talk to the students was obtained through the School Headmaster.

Before the talk with the secondary school students, the MakSPH students administered a pre-test on rabies where levels of knowledge were assessed and later held discussions with the students about rabies after which a post-test was administered.

The students entered their activity in the One Health Day Students’ Competition organised by the One Health Commission, the One Health Initiative and the One Health Platform Foundation.

Gloria Tumukunde (BEHS, Yr3), Apio Fiona (BEHS Yr3), Prossy Nakitto (BEHS Yr3), Semyalo Joshua (B. Animal Production and Technology, Yr3) and Mayindi Frank (MBChB Yr3) form the winning team.

For their effort in mobilising for the rabies campaign, the students won the One Health Day Planning Team Special Recognition Award, alongside University of Pretoria, South Africa. The recognition comes with USD 500 cash prize.

OHCEA Head Communications, Ms. Milly Nattimba caught up with Gloria Tumukunde (22), Prossy Nakitto (32) and Phionah Apio (22) and chatted about several issues related to their winning activity and the significance of the award to the team.

First, why did the activity focus on rabies?

Phionah: It is one of the commonest zonootics in Uganda and there are many cases that go unreported or under-reported. We wanted to raise the profile of rabies. Awareness is also low and people die from rabies because they ignore dog bites and cat bites. Case management is also poor.

Gloria: We selected Wakiso district because according to statistics available, it has the highest prevalence of rabies in Uganda next to Kampala.

What was the most striking personal and group experience?

Phionah: While we were doing our work, we realised that many people didn’t know much about rabies; they didn’t know about vaccination against rabies. Yet many of them keep cats and dogs in their homes. A few reported that they vaccinate their animals but not routinely. We also realised how much One Health talk is confined to the Universities, we need to take it out to other communities.

Gloria: We found out that first aid for dog and cat bites is not known yet it is a cheap technique. When we told them that recommended first aid is washing the wound with water and soap, they reacted like we were telling them something out of this world.

Prossy: Many times we assume that people have information and know certain things, yet they do not know. It is assumed, for instance, that secondary school students have information about a lot of things, but during this activity, we were able to observe the knowledge gaps.  

Gloria: We learnt a lot from each other. We realised that we all - in our various disciplines- know one component of the disease; some know a lot about treatment and medication, some know first aid, others know disease incubation period, etc. So when we came together to work on this activity, we realised that we were all pooling our knowledge and skills together to successfully conduct the activity.

Prossy: Being a part of the activity, showed me the importance of working together. I realised that as environmental health scientists, we are very key in health education and awareness creation, while the veterinarians know a lot about the incubation of the disease and the medical students are good when it comes to treatment.

Tell me about the award; how do you feel about being among the winners?

Gloria: The award makes me feel very confident; it is international recognition of our work. It makes me feel I can actually take on greater challenges in One Health. If there is another opportunity, trust me I would go grab it with both hands.

Prossy: It came as a surprise but to me it is more than the money. Everyone in class is amazed by the news. Everybody is asking us how we pulled it off. The fact that were able to pull this off without much resources is such a good feeling.

Phionah: This was a global competition and out of all the many entries, we got recognition which is more than the money really.

What are your perspectives on the One Health approach to training?

Prossy: I have studied in other institutions before at Certificate and Diploma levels, but this is my first time to encounter One Health. I think if more attention is given to it, especially in training and at community level, it can lead to control of numerous disease conditions.

Gloria: It provides all-round training which is what the world needs currently.

Phionah: It should be included in all curricula across the university and it should be spread to other universities in the country. Currently it is only Makerere University where the One Health concept and approach is being practiced, as far as I know.