World Health Day: Our Local to Global Approach

4 April, 2024

Ahmad Abu Al-Halaweh

At IsraAID, we believe that access to healthcare and public health is a basic human right. Many factors influence a community’s access to health services – resources, infrastructure, and global events are all important to consider when building health programs. That’s why we implement a “Local to Global” approach. We work closely with communities, drawing on local knowledge and resources while integrating our regional and global expertise to offer additional tools. Across the globe, IsraAID’s Public Health experts are always working to adapt to the unique needs of the specific communities we work with.

In honor of World Health Day, we’d like to share an inside look at how we build a new health program, bringing our global expertise to the unique context of a specific community. At IsraAID Uganda, we’re launching our first Public Health program in 2024. IsraAID has been working in Uganda since 2019, responding to the needs of both the refugee and host communities in the country’s north. Palorinya Refugee Settlement in northeast Uganda is home to about 128,000 refugees, mostly from South Sudan. In the settlement, IsraAID runs extensive child protection, mental health, and psychosocial support programs for both the refugee and host community.

The first step in building a new program is identifying the needs we will address. Malnutrition is an important issue in the area, with nearly 31% of children suffering from stunting – a severe form of chronic malnutrition. We saw that this number was much higher than the global average of 22%. Malnutrition is a rising issue on a global scale, as we continue to see the impact of climate-related challenges to food security on communities around the world.

From our global and regional experience, we know that education about malnutrition, normalizing screening, promoting hygiene practices, and promoting breastfeeding can have a huge impact on child malnutrition rates. We also know that health issues are interconnected with issues like child protection and access to education and livelihoods.

We took inspiration from our successful nutrition program in neighboring Kenya, leveraging our regional expertise. There, we screened over 4,400 children for malnutrition, finding that nearly one in ten were affected, and we were able to refer them to treatment centers. In Kenya, our community-based approach was key. Community outreach workers – members of the local community themselves – were trained to conduct malnutrition screenings. Mother-to-mother groups and father-to-father groups helped spread knowledge inside the community. In Kenya, we’ve also found that school-based nutrition programs can have a huge impact as well.

Looking at the local context in Uganda, we began mapping our resources. Much like in Kenya, we have an amazing local team in Uganda, with deep ties to the local community. This meant we could have success with a community-based approach.

We identified other organizations also working to combat malnutrition in the area. Our team was well-equipped to help spread knowledge in the community and increase the rates of malnutrition screenings, but that would only have an impact if we had partners who could provide additional resources when we identified severe cases. Our team could then handle follow-up within the community.

Bringing together our global and regional expertise with local knowledge and resources, we’re proud to be embarking on this new program in Uganda. Our Local to Global approach means that we use all the knowledge available to us to create the best solution for communities. From addressing malnutrition in Kenya and Uganda, to providing women’s health care in conflict-stricken Ukraine, or conducting first aid training in Dominica, this approach is central to our public health programs. It is part of our commitment to helping communities all over the world maintain their right to health in a way that is both sustainable and impactful.

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