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For Community-Driven Global Development

Grannies are the First Line of Defense

By Samera Edwards and Karen Roberts

It takes a village to raise a child; so is the village First Aid prepared? In Uganda, the grandmothers usually take on the responsibility of caring for children when other adults are working or, all too often, when parents become casualties of HIV/AIDS. High fertility rates in Uganda, coupled with high death rates from HIV/AIDS result in grandmothers in many cases taking care of, on average, about six orphans (many of whom suffer from HIV). This means lots of responsibility for the grannies; it also means that they are the first line of defense when it comes to addressing common health issues and injuries.

A recent project between FSD community partner, St. Francis Health Care Services and FSD intern, Sainath Asokan, worked to improve home health care by focusing on grandmothers. Prior to starting the project, Sainath and health center staff spoke with grandmothers affiliated with St. Francis and recognized a large information gap about basic health care, as well as a desire to gain more knowledge about first aid and other ways to improve community health. They also concentrated on the fact that the first responses in emergencies are crucial to saving lives before people can make it to the hospital from remote villages and determined that capacity building in this area would be highly beneficial.

During project implementation, grandmothers from six sub-counties around Jinja came together to expand their knowledge and skills in home healthcare and first aid. The grandmothers involved in the project were already organized into groups based upon a support group structure at St. Francis; these “granny groups” were crucial for mobilization efforts and for reaching a wider community. Sainath explains: “This [structure] not only provided an audience and avenue through which this pivotal information could be shared, but also increased the possibility of reaching an even larger number through the orphans and vulnerable children that each grandmother takes care of.”

Over the course of three extensive two-day training workshops, a total of 120 grandmothers were trained in basic healthcare and first aid. Sainath, who is a certified EMT, delivered the information with the help of one of the grannies, who acted as a translator. The structure was identical for all training sessions: Workshops on day one included topics of personal hygiene and household sanitation with a focus on preventing infections, while workshops on day two centered on first aid methods and emergency response techniques, such as: cleaning wounds, treating burns, stabilizing bone fractures, using the Heimlich Maneuver, and performing CPR.

After the training sessions were over, significant efforts were made by the grandmothers to increase project sustainability. Each granny group that had attended the workshops designated a chairperson who received written information about the trainings for future reference and review. The three different groups also organized monthly meetings to re-cap any particular aspects they want to work on and to discuss any challenges and successes. Go Grannies!