Emma Wallis's BlogInternationalNews

My Day With a Rural Health Promoter

By August 5, 2011 January 28th, 2015 No Comments

International Saving Lives volunteer Emma Wilson will be blogging over the next few weeks from the Swaziland. Yesterday she wrote about the role of the community health promoter, and about a woman called Máke in particular. Today she writes about her experience of going out in the country with her …

In this picture you can see Máke in the Saving lives T-shirt and the family outside on of the huts where  they live. The rest of the family are sporting the saving lives wrist bands and stickers

My day with Máke was totally eye opening. She took me to see some people who lived in her village and needed medical attention, but simply did not have enough money to pay either to get to hospital or, once there, afford the cost of consultation or the fee for medicines. When it’s a choice between food for your family or medical care it seems most people rightly choose to eat and take the changes with their health.

Many of the people I saw had advanced illness and were in desperate need of medical care. Máke works all day to ensure these people do get seen by someone and tries through different avenues to raise money for those families who cannot afford healthcare.

One of the families I saw were the “Dlamini” family;

This picture does not include the full family-  The father of the family in welly’s has 4 wives; one of whom was very ill in the hut behind where they are all standing. Other children, grandmothers and daughters-in-law are all living in huts around this one.

This family are having financial troubles and are unable to afford to send the sick mother to hospital. She is suffering from HIV and TB  as well as other health troubles. HIV treatment is free in Swaziland, medication for other illnesses is free, and consultations are £2. Also, this woman was bed bound and had to use crutches to walk. So there was no way for her to get to the hospital as the local bus leaves from a road a 30-minute walk (for me though – not on crutches) and the family did not have a car.  Fortunately for this family Máke, through her generous wheeler-dealer ways, managed to arrange for a man to come and collect her. Student doctors here have funded the family’s hospital fees, so the Dlaminis will be making a trip to the local hospital tomorrow. If anybody wants to help fund other peoples’ medical care such to cases similar to this family please do get in touch with me on ugm6ew@leeds.ac.uk

Another man I was speaking to in the same family had recently been diagnosed with HIV and subsequently lost his job, as he had to take a day off work to go and get ARV drugs. When his boss found out about his HIV status he fired him. So this family are struggling to get by now. When I asked why the boss fired him he said it was because his boss knew he would have to take time off to go to the clinic, he would get ill, and that furthermore there may have been underlying reasons of stigma. Máke told me some very distressing stories of people she has worked with over the years: some people when they find out about their HIV commit suicide. She says this is probably for many reasons- perhaps because they know their family can’t afford the medical fees for if they get ill and they don’t want to burden them, also stigma and fear play a role in these people’s feeling of despair and devastation. Máke showed me the house of a family that used to live in the village. The family consisted of  a wife, husband and 3 children – they were all HIV positive. The family were devoutly religious and believed that God would cure them of their HIV and so they did not receive any medical care. Hheartbreakingly, they all died. Máke, who is also devoutly religious, reflected on the painfully sad situation, “People should know that God only helps those that help themselves”.

The second picture to the right is of a family with Máke, just after we handed out wrist bands. We had come to see the Gógo – “grandmother” – who was over 100 years old and bed-bound. We told the family that when they look at the wristbands they must remember two things; 1) it is very important to know your HIV status and get tested and 2) if you know you are HIV positive you should remember to take ARV drugs every day.


Some names in this and yesterday’s blog have been changed to protect people’s identities.

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