Dignity and Right to Health Award 2016

Dear friends and colleagues,

We received two nominations for the Dignity and Right to Health Award 2016 of the ICMDA Leadership in Christian Health and Development Initiative.

With much reflection, discussion and prayer, we reviewed each of these deep and inspiring stories of God’s grace in action. We struggled and discussed and went back and forward. Slowly in our common mind we came to see the broadness and reach of Anil’s work both in Africa and India having wider circles of influence.

Dr Anil Cherian is the winner of the Dignity and Right to Health Award 2016 of the ICMDA Leadership in Christian Health and Development Initiative and Mrs Aida Mtega is a most distinguished runner up.

Let me share with you the excellent story of Anil Cherian and Mrs Aida Mtega.

Dr Anil Cherian – Winner of the Dignity and Right to Health Award 2016 of the ICMDA Leadership in 

Christian Health and Development Initiative

Criteria 1.     Leadership

Demonstrated visionary and innovative leadership

Dr Cherian is from the state of Kerala in South India and qualified in 1989 in the Christian medical college , Vellore.

After a junior doctor year he returned to Vellore and successfully trained as a paediatrician. This was followed for many years by service for a total of 20 years  with the Emmanuel Hospital association , national organisation serving mission hospitals in India. He was director  of the organisation in the last two years. During his service he had also become very involved in community health. His wife Shalini, an obstetrician was not only supportive but  a very able co-worker.

His involvement in the Sudan started in  2011 when he was invited by ICMDA  to join a team  of five given the task of how South Sudan could be helped in the development of their health services. They felt that teaching local staff would be the best contribution  and the institute of health sciences was born . Dr Cherian was asked the following year 2012 to lead and develop this project. Anil and his wife moved to South Sudan at this time both feeling the call of God to serve in Sudan maybe for 7 years.

The initial plan was to have the teaching institute in  a town called BOR but the following year  intense fighting occurred in Bor making it utterly impossible to have the teaching there.

The responsibility of an alternative  venue for the institute  of health sciences largely fell on Anil and the teaching commenced in Mengo hospital in Kampala in early 2014. (Mengo is an Anglican mission hospital on one of the hills of Kampala).

There are, I think 51 students in training. Most are high school graduates but around  20% have some experience maybe in community work, nursing or midwifery. There are three teaching streams, clinical medicine and public health,  nursing and midwifery.every attempt has been made to attract women students and at present 30% are women. These will complete training in a year’s time.

A team of teachers has been formed mostly full time but with some part timers  and volunteers.

It is obvious that Anil has made a huge contribution to the success of this venture though you would not get that information directly from him.

Criteria 2.     Target group – Marginalised / Hard to Reach Communities

Provision of health services for communities who have difficulties in  accessing care due to ethnicity, caste, behaviour, and or other reasons, or are hard to reach due to geographical difficulties, violence or conflicts.

In Sudan talking about communities who have difficulties accessing health facilities is irrelevant as the while health system has broken down and everything everywhere is in a mess and not likely to improve any time soon as now there is intense tribal warfare. This means that all the population are in dire need and every small contribution is of value. The Cherians are without doubt doing all they can.

Criteria 3.     Program outcomes

  •  Significant impact at local and wider level,
  •  Empowers others in integrated community responses,
  •  Facilitates church integration and participation in best practice models of care
  •  Demonstrates excellence in full community involvement and empowerment of the target communities
  •  Works, facilitates and advocates for gender equality in community participation and response to issues faced by the target communities
  •  Links well with government and other actors in a comprehensive approach to issues faced by the target communities
  •  Models creative and compassionate responses that inspire many to similarly enhance the dignity and human rights of the target communities

The hope is that these students when they graduate will return to Sudan to serve there. The training was set up in full co-operation with the government. The plan has been that some should work in clinical settings and some in mission hospitals and others in the community. Every effort will be made to fulfil this aspiration and indeed commitment but the situation in South Sudan is such that anything could happen.

Anil and Shalini will continue their commitment to the country when the training is completed.

Funding has been difficult and the best contribution has come from the Anglican church.

Anil has co-operated with other NGOs whenever appropriate and contribution to refugee (mostly I.D.Ps) work is being considered

Criteria 4.     Personal Life

Exemplifies a life that does justice, loves kindness and walks humbly with God. Assists individuals to be worshipers of the Living God

The story I have covered very superficially speaks for itself. Anil and Shalini have not just engaged in a project  but have given themselves to the service of the people of South Sudan. This has continued work the work they did in India but it has meant changing home and country to a most insecure situation . To enable this  they left their two sons in India to complete their education

There is much to celebrate and learn from this extraordinary life.

 

The excellent story of Aida Mtega a most distinguished runner-up.

Mrs. Aida Mtega is responsible for a Tanzanian Palliative care project. She works as a nurse in Ilembulan Lutheran hospital which give health services for south-west Tanzania. It is only service provider in large area there. She is head coordinator for palliative care. In this project she is also head of about 50 volunteers, who are trained in Ilembula for supportive role for palliative patients. The project helps the quality of life much for the patients and gives support and good treatment including palliative treatment for pain in end-of-life situatiations.

To learn of more ways to support Aida Mtega’s work please contact  Martti Kulvik martti.kulvik@etla.fi

or Sirpa Maijanen sirpa.maijanen@skls.fi

Criteria 1.     Leadership

Demonstrated visionary and innovative leadership

By her education Aida Mtega is an anesthetic nurse. She was, However, touched by the suffering of patients having HIV, AIDS and other incurable diseases in the village of Ilembula.

In 2003 RN Aida Mtega received HBC Provider training for three weeks in Bagamoyo city. In 2004 she, together with Mr Bryceson Mbilinyi (since 2013 the administrator of ILH), attended the Tanzanian Palliative Care Association (TPCA) inaugural meeting in Arusha city, and in 2007 the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania offered two staff members to be trained in Palliative Care. Nomine Aida Mtega was one.

Aida Mtega founded a palliative care group in Ilembula District (formely Lutheran) Hospital in Ilembula, Njombe district in the Iringa Region of the Tanzanian Southern Highlands. Over the past years the group has constantly grown, and currently the group consists of two doctors, three nurses, a social worker, a pastor (counsellor) and a treasurer. RN Aida Mtega serves as a coordinator of the group.

However, of equal, if not even higher importance is the group of volunteers that has grown to more than 50 dedicated laymen; see section 3 below. The volunteers are similarly coordinated by sister Aida.

In addition to taking care of the administrative responsibility, Mrs Mtega goes to see suffering patients in their homes and villages. Her mobile phone is never closed. She does not receive salary for this important work but works also as an anaesthetic nurse few days and nights a week.

Criteria 2.     Target group – Marginalised / Hard to Reach Communities

Provision of health services for communities who have difficulties in  accessing care due to ethnicity, caste, behaviour, and or other reasons, or are hard to reach due to geographical difficulties, violence or conflicts.

The palliative care in Africa focuses on the quality of life, human dignity and suffering of patients, whom nobody else seems to be interested in. The majority of the patients are stigmatized due to HIV/AIDS and typically hidden out of sight in their villages. Moreover, the area, Njombe district, in Tanzania is very poor and people living there do not have many resources but only their families and Mrs Mtega´s group.

The poorest and most sick patients are not able to reach the hospital for help and support. Hence a key feature has been to go to the patients, into the villages from which rumours of patients beyond remedy have reached the team. Sometimes only after repeated visits, the initial hostility from the villages are overcome and access granted. The patients are treated in the centre of the village, publicly and openly, to counteract the existing consequences of stigma.

Criteria 3.     Program outcomes

  • Significant impact at local and wider level,
  • Empowers others in integrated community responses,
  • Facilitates church integration and participation in best practice models of care
  • Demonstrates excellence in full community involvement and empowerment of the target communities
  • Works, facilitates and advocates for gender equality in community participation and response to issues faced by the target communities
  • Links well with government and other actors in a comprehensive approach to issues faced by the target communities
  • Models creative and compassionate responses that inspire many to similarly enhance the dignity and human rights of the target communities

In 2012 ‘Ilembula Hospital Palliative Care Strategic Plan 2012-2017′ was written by the palliative care team in cooperation with the hospital leadership and signed by the Palliative Care Coordinator Aida Mtega and (then) Medical Officer-In-Charge Charles Lunogelo. In the process of creating the strategic plan, local religious leaders, government officials and heads of clans were also consulted.

The team makes outreach trips to 16 villages around Ilembula, some of the villages being very far, up to 2 hours’ drive by car. Each village is visited every 4th month (three times a year). Thus, the main “work force” is the group of 53 volunteers; mostly women that the village elders or the village councils have assigned for the post.

The volunteers have received 3 months’ training for their job from the palliative care team, and they also meet with the team monthly at ILH to report, seek advice and receive refresher training. The complicated cases are referred to the PC team to handle. The volunteers do the work in their free time, usually they take a day off from work (mostly in their farms) to meet the patients. Every volunteer is supposed to have 10-15 patients. However, because of lack of the resources they can have up to 50 patients.

The service of the volunteers is vital in the care of home patients; without them, regular visits would not be possible.  Their role in the communities is very important also in awareness building: their presence and participation strengthens the adherence of the community in the care of its most vulnerable members.

ILH (Ilembula Lutheran Hospital) palliative care group and sister Aida has also an important educative and informative role for the population of the area: they teach about prevention of HIV, deliver information about palliative care and dying in the villages and schools, and educate health care professionals in the hospital. To us, having followed Aida Mtega’s group in person since 2011, their work seems simply phenomenal in the vast area of Njombe.

 

Criteria 4.     Personal Life

Exemplifies a life that does justice, loves kindness and walks humbly with God

Assists individuals to be worshipers of the Living God

Aida is a person with whom everybody feels comfortable; she bases her life on the work of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, she is always ready to pray for or with you, and has time for those who come to her and whom she meets.

 Final Comments…

Some of the staff encounters patients with empathy; others have a very cold attitude. I was to become a teacher, tells Aida. –But I was stung by a scorpion and ended up in a hospital. The nurse treated me in a way I really did not like. It was then I decided this country needs other kinds of nurses, nurses, who care for their patients with love. And I wanted to be one of these nurses, a nurse who works close by the patient supporting and teaching her, Aida recalls her career’s first steps.

If I had all the power?, laughs Aida. –If I had all the power, I would like to engage into palliative work people who really feel a call. And more workers. And more education to new ones as well as those who are already engaged, she continues. In hard times it always comforts me each time I realize with whom worker or trusted relative I can help my patients.

There is much to celebrate and learn from this extraordinary life.

 

Michael Burke

On behalf of the steering committee

ICMDA Leadership in Christian Health and Development Initiative