Melinda Hershey, a fourth-year health education undergraduate student, is spending her final quarter at UC interning in Uganda with an organization called Conservation Through Public Health. During her ten weeks in Uganda, Melinda will conduct sanitation and family planning surveys throughout the Bwindi area, and develop materials to complement these efforts.
She is primarily working with the Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) group located at a camp in Bwindi, meeting members of the community and working with them on issues that affect public health and population, like sanitation and family planning.
CPTH began as a conservation effort aimed to protect the world’s largest population of mountain gorillas in the Ugandan region. When it became clear that this area, also one of the most impoverished nations in the world, was experiencing the transmission of deadly diseases between animals and humans, the focus turned to improving public health and hygiene. They soon saw the benefits not only to the region’s population, but also to protect a sustainable source of income from gorilla tourism.
Melinda has already reported back to her UC professors this summer with a wealth of interesting experiences. “I traveled to Queen Elizabeth National Park to participate in a fact-finding mission about an Anthrax outbreak among hippos. This is a huge problem because there are not enough resources to dispose of the hippos, therefore causing a threat to the local human population as well.”
Melinda’s fieldwork began in July in the Mukono district, visiting the homes of community members. “I checked several elements of hygiene within their homes (latrines, showers, water storage) and also spoke to them about family planning. They speak a local language (Rukiga) so I had a translator with me to interpret,” says Melinda. She has also visited two schools to speak with them about hygiene and family planning issues. “This community has an overwhelming need for better hygiene and sanitation education and resources, and they still have a lot to learn about appropriate methods of family planning. Hopefully we will be able to gather some good data to make a case for funding more endeavors.”
Melinda also noted that she had the opportunity to meet a local medicine man and see his office. She also witnessed the making of banana gin, called Waragi, being made while she was out and about in the community.
Aside from learning about Uganda’s health, Melinda hopes to absorb as much of the unique culture as possible. You can learn more about the mission of Conservation Through Public Health at www.ctph.org.