MTN Foundation to set up facility to skill 400 girls annually.

  • MTN Foundation in partnership with Smart Girls Foundation has today embarked on the construction of a skilling facility with the capacity to train 400 girls annually in vocational programs.
  • The training facility will specialize in vocational and business upskilling, inclusive of courses like electricity installation, house painting, tailoring, carpentry, welding, catering, among others.
  • The launch of the event comes as the world joins together to celebrate the International Women’s day on March 8.

MTN Foundation in partnership with Smart Girls Foundation has today embarked on the construction of a skilling facility with the capacity to train 400 girls annually in vocational programs.

The facility which will be housed at the Smart Girls Foundation offices in Kampala will specialize in vocational and business upskilling, inclusive of courses like electricity installation, house painting, tailoring, carpentry, welding, catering, among others.

Speaking during the ground-breaking ceremony held in Kampala today, MTN Uganda General Manager for Customer Experience, Dorcus Muhwezi said the project is envisaged to give birth to 40 new women-led businesses in the country.

“The objective of the project is to widen career prospects and opportunities for women by diversifying and breaking the glass ceiling into careers that were previously regarded as a preserve for men,” Muhwezi said.

The project is expected to cost UGX230million which will facilitate the construction of an auto vehicle servicing station, a newly constructed washing bay and the renovation of 3 classrooms and a main hall with a capacity of 30 students per room.  In addition to training the young women, the vehicle servicing station and washing bay are also expected to ensure sustainability of the project through generating income for the Smart Girls Foundation for services rendered by the trainers to the public.

Smart Girls Foundation is a not for profit organisation centred on skilling and empowering the girl child with the vision to transform their lives for a brighter future.

In her remarks, the Guest of Honour, the Resident District Commissioner Wakiso District who was represented by John Baptist Nsaba, the RDC Representative welcomed the initiative by MTN saying it complements government’s ambitions towards promoting gender equality and empowering the girl child.

“I wish to commend MTN for consistently championing efforts geared towards supporting government’s vision and policies such as the equal opportunities policy and the UN sustainable development goal 5 which focuses on achieving gender equality and women empowerment,” she said urging other private sector players to emulate MTN’s initiatives to propel the country’s economic growth.

The launch of the project comes as the world joins together to commemorate the International Women’s day held on March 8 under the theme: Gender Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”.

In celebration of the International women’s day, the MTN Foundation engaged in various activities with the young girls at Smart Girls Foundation including kitchen gardening and mentorship sessions in career guidance facilitated by members of the MTN Women Group.

The partnership between MTN Foundation and Smart Girls Foundation is one of many interventions undertaken by the former to empower women and girls in Uganda.

In June 2019, during the 21 days of YelloCare, the annual staff volunteerism initiative, MTN supported the Smart girls Foundation with a donation worth UGX30million with the aim of enhancing the girls’ learning experience. As a result, the organisation increased the number of girls trained at the facility from 30 to 64 in a wide range of programs including mechanical, electrical installations and welding.

In the same year, MTN announced UGX50m sponsorship towards the Kyabazinga Girl Child program aimed at supporting and improving the lives of women and youth in the Busoga region.

Similarly, MTN Foundation in 2016 partnered with the Forum for African Women Educationalists Uganda Chapter (FAWEU) to provide full cover University Education scholarships for ten (10) Ugandan girls across the country.

MTN Foundation Uganda Refurbishes Karugutu health Centre IV

  • MTN Foundation has today handed over a newly refurbished and equipped maternity theatre and ward to the Karugutu health centre IV in Ntoroko district.
  • The facility was in dire need of renovation to restore the dilapidated structures.
  • The Karugutu health centre IV refurbishment is part of a larger commitment by MTN Foundation and its partners to refurbish four other health centres across the country through UGX1.3Billion project funded by proceeds from the MTN Kampala Marathon since 2018.

In an effort to boost maternal and child health care, MTN Foundation has today handed over a newly refurbished and equipped maternity theatre and ward to the Karugutu health centre IV in Ntoroko district.

Karugutu health centre IV is a government-owned facility which serves a catchment population of 27,000 people in the western region of Uganda. According to Fredrick Kahuma, the hospital incharge of Karugutu health centre IV, there was a dire need for renovation of the dilapidated structures especially in the maternity theater which affected service delivery.

“The theater lacked properly functioning equipment to carry out some surgical procedures, for example we didn’t have a suction machine that is used to remove fluid in order to get a clear view of the area one is operating on.  The doors were also broken and walls were damaged which posed a security threat to equipment in the theater as well as an unsterile operating environment for the pregnant mothers,” Kahuma recounts.

It is against that background that the MTN Foundation with support from the official partners of the MTN Kampala Marathon: Rwenzori Bottling Company, Vision Group, Stanbic Bank and Huawei dedicated UGX180million towards the refurbishment of the health centre.  The project was implemented by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) through Ministry of Health.

The Karugutu health centre IV refurbishment is part of a grand commitment by MTN Foundation and its partners to refurbish five other health centres across the country through UGX1.3Billion project funded by proceeds from the MTN Kampala Marathon since 2018.

While handing over the facility, Ibrahim Senyonga the General Manager of the Enterprise Business Unit said the initiative to refurbish Karugutu health Centre IV reaffirms MTN’s commitment to improving the lives of people in Uganda through supporting government endeavors to extend quality social services to the communities.

“Under this project, MTN Foundation has invested UGX180million to rehabilitate the maternity theater and ward of Karugutu health center IV with quality infrastructure. The health center has also been equipped with medical equipment such as a suction used during operations, delivery beds, delivery kits and baby warmers used in neonatal intensive care units among other items. Our hope is to save lives of mothers and children during childbirth,” Ibrahim said noting that the initiative is timely as the world draws closer to celebrating the International Women’s Day.

Senyonga was reiterated by the Director Curative services at the Ministry of Health, Dr Charles Olaro, who was representing the state minister for health. He appreciated MTN for its support in ensuring affordable healthcare services in the country.

“We value the engagements with private sector such as MTN Foundation in the improvement of public health services. Around most of the already accomplished interventions MTN has undertaken, we are now seeing increased utilization of maternal and child health services. I am optimistic we shall be able to see it here (Karugutu) too,” he said.

Similarly appreciating MTN and its partners for the effort, Kahuma said: “We have received a range of equipment that will enable us offer better and efficient health care to our patients. The additional beds will also enable us carry out more operations so more women and children will receive medical attention,” he said.

Other health centres expected to benefit from the project include: Muyembe health centre IV in Bulambuli district, Kalangala health centre IV in Kalangala district and Pakwach health centre IV in Pakwach district.

As part of the project, MTN Foundation in 2020 invested UGX400m in refurbishing and equipping Kawempe Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Dr Edson Muhwezi, the assistant representative UNFPA said the organization takes pride in a partnership with MTN Foundation to leverage each other’s added value to reduce maternal deaths and help women and girls in Uganda.

MTN youth skilling program supports S.6 vacist to realize music producer dream

The uncertainty of the future of the education sector has left many children camped at home, but for twenty-year-old Brian Mawerere, music is his go to.

The MTN Foundation Youth Skilling program is his stepping stone.

Mawerere alias Welleh Beats is one of the participants in the MTN Foundation Youth Skilling program, a partnership between MTN Foundation and Ubunifu systems created with the aim of empowering youth into becoming job creators.

With the ultimate dream of becoming an entrepreneur in music production, Welleh jumped at the opportunity to attain business skills from the MTN Foundation Youth Skilling program in December 2020.

He knew that to attain the dream of becoming one of the most successful music producers in the region, he needed to have the right business skillset to run and manage a company.

“Through the MTN Foundation Youth Skilling Program, I learnt how to manage business and now have some knowledge especially on digital skills. I can now keep tabs on my company records through Microsoft excel, make beautiful presentations using MS Power point and the overall knowledge of using computers will help me navigate the software in my music production journey,” he says.

Welleh’s music production journey is budding with about a year’s experience in his pocket.

He embarked on the tunes and hymns expedition after schools were closed as a result of the pandemic in March 2020.

Welleh is a senior six vacist from Bright Secondary School Entebbe having accomplished his Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) in 2019, right before the pandemic hit.

Slotted for university in 2020, unaware of the pandemic that the future held, Welleh was vested in cultivating a passion he had for music. He was inspired by the late Danz Kumapeesa.

“After finishing my S6, I got a job from which I was earning some money. I bought a small laptop and installed basic software for music production,” he narrates.

For months, Welleh trained on his laptop and a nearby studio in Seguku where he was working with his father. In November 2020, Welleh hit a milestone when he got an opportunity to work as producer at his uncle’s friend’s studio.

“With help from my uncle, I got a link to his friend who needed a producer.  Following a successful audition, I was hired at that studio in Kajjansi where I had to relocate,” he says.

However, the job didn’t last very long because the proprietor of the studio pulled out of the business, forcing Welleh to relocate back to his family home in Bulenga.

Determined to become a music producer, Welleh discovered Pinnacle records in Bulenga, a studio where he now undertakes continuous and relentless training.

“I officially joined the music industry while at Pinnacle records. There, I continued training myself both in the studio and researching via the internet on how to better my music production skills,” Welleh recounts.

 

Achievements

Already, in his budding music production journey, Welleh has worked with some artists, mostly a cocktail of the upcoming.

“I have worked with some that might be known and others that aren’t so famous. I have worked with Zil Zil but one of my greatest achievements is making people happy through the work I do,” he explains.

Challenges

Welleh’s journey of music production has been an adventure not without its challenges.

As he reveals, the high costs involved in investing in studio time and time required for research limit his ability to fully harness his potential in music production.

“I would like to go to a real school for example in sound engineering such that I can fully become like one of those renowned and advanced music producers but that is expensive,” he notes.

Youth Skilling Program boosts networking for Welleh

Already, MTN Foundation Youth Skilling Program has set some milestones for the youngster through network connections to one of the prominent music producers.

During his training, Welleh had the opportunity to meet Benon Mugumbya, popularly known as Benon, a musician and renowned music producer from Swangz Avenue.

Well-grounded on digital and business skills attained through the Program, Welleh believes that he will be well prepared to seek for an opportunity at Swangz Avenue sooner than later.

At Swangz, he hopes to build onto his music experience before he can venture into his own production.

He wishes to work with various talented artists such as Sheebah Karungi, Spice Diana and Naava Grey among others in future.

Speaking further to his future, Welleh hopes to become an accomplished entrepreneur in the music industry flanked by an honors of the best music producer across East Africa.

National Curriculum Development Center lauds MTN for zero rating learning websites

National Curriculum Development Center (NCDC), the government body responsible for the development of educational curricula for primary, secondary and some tertiary institutions in Uganda has lauded MTN for its initiative to encourage learning from home by zero rating learning institution websites for students.

Gilbert Gift Siima, the curriculum specialist ICT at National Curriculum Development Center (NCDC) said the initiative enabled students who were studying from home to access learning materials during the lockdown.

This, he said was especially helpful for candidate students in the primary leaving examinations (PLE) and the O’level Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) who have recently received their results.

Following the closure of schools during the initial country lockdown, MTN in March last year allowed free access to 17 learning sites in partnership with NCDC to ensure students study from home while also enabling parents home school the children.

Some of the learning sites which can be accessed from https://www.mtn.co.ug/learnathome/  include:

http://www.classroommagazines.scholastic.com/

http://www.allinonehomeschool.com/

http://www.abcya.com/

http://www.splashlearn.com/

Some of the learning institutions include universities such as Makerere University, Uganda Christian University and Uganda Martyrs University among others.

Namubiru Agnes, a teacher and mother of two candidates from St Francis Education Center in Namawojjolo says her and her children benefitted a lot from reading materials on the zero rated websites.

“When they sent the children back home, they told us to access materials online and that is what I did. With the help of my sister who accessed the websites, I was able to homeschool my children. It helped us a lot to keep the children focused on education,” she recounts.

According to Siima, the sites have continuously recorded increased traffic signaling to the increased usage amongst the learners.

He lauded MTN for its efforts as a corporate citizen in enabling continuity of the education sector which has been hard hit by the covid-19 pandemic.

MTN Uganda General Manager Corporate services and legal, Enid Edroma said the telecom is glad to have partnered with NCDC to support the people of Uganda.

“MTN is dedicated to continuously support the people of Uganda. We understand the vitality of education especially to the youngsters in the country, and as such thought it necessary to ensure that they remain focused and studying at no cost to the parents whose incomes have also been affected by the pandemic,” Edroma noted.

This comes after the Ministry of education and sports released the PLE and UCE results last month.

MTN Foundation, Ubunifu Empower Youth As 60 Graduate From Youth Skilling Program

  • 60 youth have graduated in the first cohort of the MTN Foundation youth skilling program.
  • The program, which kicked off in December 2020 targeted 100 beneficiaries from university graduates, Small and medium enterprises and young innovators.
  • The youth skilling program is in line with MTN’s priority area focusing on youth as it seeks to inspire and empower them with the goal of creating practical ICT driven solutions to challenges in society.
Collage of graduates during the virtual graduation ceremony organised by the MTN Foundation and Ubunifu systems

60 youth have successfully graduated having attained digital and technical skills in the first cohort of the MTN Foundation youth skilling program.

The MTN Foundation youth skilling program is an initiative funded by MTN Foundation Uganda and implemented by Ubunifu systems aimed at inspiring and empowering youth with the goal of creating practical ICT driven solutions to challenges in society.

The program, which kicked off in December 2020 received nearly 2000 applications but only targeted 100 youth from university graduates, Small and medium enterprises and young innovators.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony held during an online webinar, The MTN General Manager Corporate services and Legal, Enid Edroma who was representing the MTN CEO congratulated the youth upon the accomplishment urging them to use the skills attained to improve their society.

“These graduands are not your ordinary people. They were picked out of 1900 applicants for the training. This was not a chance occurrence because within each one of you are certain special qualities that helped identify you as the right candidates and these include, the passion which we saw through your applications. We also noticed your resilience and positive outlook to life and its challenges,” Edroma said.

Edroma highlighted the resilience of the youth who quickly adapted to online training when the pandemic hit and interrupted the program.

The MTN youth skilling program which was entirely conducted online employed a three pronged approach tackling digital and technical skills as well as an incubation phase for aspiring entrepreneurs focused on four thematic areas including agriculture, health, education and youth empowerment.

Addressing the effect of the pandemic especially on the education sector, Edroma said covid-19 has accelerated the advancement and adoption of technology.

She however also noted that there are still gaps that need to be plugged especially in the lower education segments.

“There are areas that can still be better for instance primary and secondary education. It would be nice to see that segment also move into the digital space which will demonstrate the value of digitisation,” she said.

Edroma was reiterated by Brian Mbasa, the senior manager MTN Foundation who said the objective of the program is to empower youth to establish businesses which will have a trickle-down effect by employing other youth in society.

He explained that this is the first of many editions of the MTN youth skilling program as a new edition will kick off in January next year.

Sylvester Nyombi, the brand and communications manager, Ubunifu systems said the program enjoyed a diversity of youth having drawn people from 86 districts, with a high level of female participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Nagawa Hajara, one of the female graduates in the program said she has attained various skills which have been instrumental in aiding her establish her agribusiness training center.

Hajarah-Naggawa-one-of-the-graduands-during-the-skilling-program-conducted-online.

The graduation ceremony was graced with various dignitaries from the ICT sector such as Micheal Niyitegeka, International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL) Africa country director and Kenneth Muhangi, advisor at ministry of ICT, who awarded certificates of excellence to the graduands.

The guest of honour, Honorable Sarah Mateke Nyirabashitsi, Minister of State for Youth and Children Affairs commended MTN and Ubunifu systems for the initiative of skilling youth explaining that this has contributed a lot to improving the quality of labour in the country.

She also said that despite existence of similar government programs geared towards skilling the youth for example the youth livelihood program, there is still need for extra support from the private sector.

“Demand for affordable credit to support the youth to establish viable businesses is very high compared to the available funds I therefore appeal to the private sector to keep supporting us and implementing government programs,” she urged.

Hon Mateke said the program is timely and will be acknowledged during her first 100 days in office as the country prepares to celebrate the international youth day on August 12.

MTN trainee Smith saves the environment making footballs out of recycled plastic

Douglas Smith is an ardent lover of sports. The amor dates back to when the gentleman was young, barely aged enough to go to school. Every chance he got to play, it was football; soccer as some may like to call it. Fast forward, Smith has taken his love even further to play football for several clubs.

For the years he played, Smith always used balls made out of banana fibers because he could not afford those on the market.

‘Ehihajo’, they called them. ‘Ehihajo’ was the runyankole word used to mean expensive ball.

What flustered him was that despite the fact that the balls were imported, they were not durable, and yet cost an arm and a leg to buy.

So for the past three years, Smith, who runs a not for profit organisation called ‘The Smith Soccer Foundation’ which uses the power of soccer to bring about a positive social impact in communities, embarked on research that would later see him make his own soccer balls out of recycled plastic.

“Most of the soccer balls used in Uganda are imported. There hasn’t been any football manufacturing company in Uganda. Most of the imported soccer balls are very expensive and not durable. Also I came to find out that in Uganda over 2000 metric tons of waste is generated of which around 30% is plastic. After doing intensive research and studies, I came up with the idea of manufacturing soccer balls locally from recycled plastic waste,” he reveals, never mind that he was pursuing a diploma in medical laboratory technology.

Sportrise is born

At the dawn of 2020, Sportrise was born. Sportrise is a social enterprise company in Ibanda locally manufacturing durable and affordable soccer balls from recycled plastic waste.

Smith’s raw material is Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE) which is the commonest type of plastic in Uganda as it is derived from disposable plastic water and soda bottles.

It takes around 100 plastic bottles to make one ball.

“We have up to 10 plastic collection centres in Ibanda. We employ some young people that do the collections. We are currently innovating a digital way of encouraging young people to earn as they collect and drop plastic at our collection centres,” he narrates.

At Sportrise, Smith employs 27 people directly and indirectly including those that collect the plastic for recycling.

In one year, the 27 year old has earned about UGX12million from selling soccer balls and sportswear.

“We have made UGX12 million in sales from both Sportrise balls and Sportrise wear since May 2020 and have so far raised UGX120 million in seed funding. Whereas currently our sport wear is made of fabric, we are presently undertaking research on the feasibility of manufacturing sportswear (sportrise wear– including jerseys and footwear) from recycled plastic waste,” he says.

Currently an ordinary Sportrise ball goes for UGX40,000 and UGX50,000 for those that are customized.

Whereas Sportrise clientele are predominantly sports shops, local clubs, corporate companies, schools, individuals & politicians, the young lad from Mirambi Cell, Ibanda District has now embarked on partnering with football clubs to grow his sales.

“Last year we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ibanda Municipal SC 3rd division team as their official kit sponsor on a 2 year deal while they also play using our Sportrise balls. We plan to partner with many more clubs,” he explains.

Challenges

But being a first time business founder venturing in virgin territory of local football manufacturing, Smith has been faced with some challenges.

“Uganda has no football manufacturing plant where the team can benchmark to learn more about the ball making process. This calls for flying out of the country which is costly for a startup. Heavy reliance on imported products also limits acceptability of my local product,” he says.

Smith is skilled by MTN

Sportrise was the overall winner of the MTN ‘For Good Campaign’ having emerged victorious out of 100 participants that took part in 2020.

Owing to his victory, Smith was given a free pass to the MTN Foundation Youth Skilling Program (MYSP) which seeks to inspire and empower youth to become job creators through imparting financial and digital skills business knowledge. The MYSP, a partnership between MTN and Ubinufu systems hosts 100 participants trained in legal and taxation, computer essentials and technical skills among others.

Smith says; “The MTN Youth Skilling Program has really helped me a lot especially about financial management, record keeping, leadership etc. Being a first time founder, it was difficult running a startup company and leading my team but with the MTN Youth Skilling Program I now have over 80% of the skills. I think in the future I will strive not to make mistakes.”

As winner of the For Good Campaign, Smith was awarded 60GB for 6 months which he used to undertake more research and running his website. In addition, Smith says, the MTN ‘For Good campaign’ endorsement has enabled Sportrise to win several competitions and raise some money as well.

Nelson Munyanda, senior manager MTN Foundation says Sportrise is an example of a green company which falls in line with MTN’s environmental and social governance policy.

“It seeks to conserve the world through waste management which is a challenge for many in Uganda. At MYSP, the goal is to empower the youth to create ICT driven solutions to challenges in their community and I think Sportrise speaks to that,” he notes.

Like any other startup, Sportrise still faces some challenges which it will need to overcome before it can carry on with its ambition of scaling and competing on the global market.

MTN bed donations increase safe deliveries in govt health centres

Before 2018, Busiu Health Centre IV in Mbale district received about 60 women delivering at the facility every month.

The health center which at the time had very limited beds tried to house the mothers for at least 24 hours for purposes of medical review in vain.

“Initially we would tell the mother to stay around for 24 hours but when there was no room for the mother to sleep, she would go away,” Dr. Maumbe Bernard the in-charge of Busiu Health Centre IV narrates.

The early departure of the mothers from the health center was one of the reasons why some of the newly born babies died soon after. About 3 babies were dying in a period of three months.

Today, child mortality at the health center is near extinguished. According to Dr. Maumbe, the health center now goes three months without recording any deaths.

These results are a culmination of combined efforts by the hospital and MTN Uganda.

MTN Foundation led by MTN Uganda CEO Wim Vanhelleputte handed over 10 beds, mattresses, bedsheets and mosquito nets to the district health officer Dr Jonathan Wangisi

MTN in the evening of 2018 donated beds and blankets to the health center which have since enabled more pregnant women seek maternity health care services.

The beds have allowed women stay over for a longer period enabling medical review of the mother and baby.

“Before we would have around 60 deliveries and now over a month, an average of 120 mothers are delivering from here but some months peak to 200. Antenatal visits are about 80 to 100,” he explains adding that hospital efforts of availing medicine have also played a key role in this outcome.

The telecom company also renovated the maternity ward which Dr Maumbe says has contributed to encouraging mothers to visit the health centre to seek proper medical antenatal services

In fact, the impact is far-reaching as Busiu health center IV has now graduated to become a referral station for women in neighboring towns of Butaleja and Manafwa.

Kyenjojo hospital tells the same tale. The hospital received 30 beds and 30 mattresses from MTN which were installed in the general ward. Charles Tusiime, the health officer of Kyenjojo district says these beds have been very instrumental in delivering treatment to the people from the western district.

“The impact much as patients may not know is great. One bed can be used by so many people. In a month you find one bed has served about 5 to 10 people with bed occupancy of about 3 days,” he said.

As he recounts, the hospital in the past would times get overwhelmed by the numbers which would force some of the patients to sleep on the floor, a situation they described as floor cases.

Tusiime says the hospital no longer has floor cases in its general ward because of the MTN intervention.

The intervention has also reduced the burden for the hospital allowing it to focus on other aspects in regards to its budget and procurement.

“What we would have been using for procurement of beds has been diverted to construction of 2 emptiable pit latrines which have addressed the costs associated with the hospital’s sewerage system” he says.

MTN under the UGX400m access to health care initiative supported health centres and hospitals through refurbishing of maternity wards and donation of beddings such as blankets, mosquito nets, mattresses and beds.

Similarly, some of the health centres received solar lighting equipment and had their entire water system connected.

A total of 8 health centres and 5 hospitals across the country were supported.

Wim Vanhelleputte, MTN Uganda Chief executive officer lauded the hospitals and health centre staff saying MTN is pleased with the impact they have managed to drive in the community.

“I am very delighted to see the ripple effect of the donation. It makes us at MTN very happy to see lives of many people impacted and for that I would like to thank the medical staff making this happen. As MTN, we shall constantly seek to find ways of transforming lives of Ugandans,” he appreciated.

MTN solar fridges boost covid-19 vaccination in refugee communities

“Within an average of four hours, a non-refrigerated vaccine becomes ineffective,” Amos Asiku, the facility in charge at Bidibidi health centre III in Northern Uganda says.

Incidences of vaccines getting destroyed due to lack of refrigeration were common at the health centre which has been operational since 2016.

The health centre at the time had gas powered fridges with multiple mechanical faults causing breakdowns every so often, putting the vaccines at risk of getting destroyed. In addition, refilling of the gas in the fridge was strenuous since it was done from a distant area lasting multiple days.

“It had frequent breakdowns and when it went off, the faster you acted, the better, because the fridge would no longer be regulated, the vaccines would go bad which I termed as wasted because it can no longer be used,”Asiku recounts.

In the event of a break down, Bidibidi health centre III would move all the vaccines to a nearby government hospital for refrigeration which affected operation at the health centre in addition to time wastage.

The vaccine storage challenge affected about 150 people that visit the health centre on a daily basis including women and mothers in search for polio and early immunization vaccines.

In a twist of events, the hurdles became a story of the past after MTN in partnership with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) donated a solar powered fridge which would later become the salvation to a pandemic in the refugee settlement.

“MTN gave us a solar powered vaccine fridge that is able to run for 24 hours. It makes the antigens available for patients meaning they are able to access them at any time,” he says.

Some of the vaccines housed at the hospital include polio, HPV and most recently covid-19.

According to Asiku, the fridge has been very critical in safe keeping of the covid-19 vaccines which were received in May and have been administered in accordance with ministry of health guidelines.

“Covid-19 vaccines are also maintained on cold chain so we were able to maintain them under cold conditions to keep them safe until such a time when people wanted to take the vaccine,” he said.

As covid-19 cases rise in the country, the health centre is a medical relief to South Sudanese refugees and most recently Congolese refugees along with the area host community.

Bidibidi is only one of 10 health centres that were in dire need of refrigerators for vaccine preservation. In partnership with UNHCR, MTN handed over 10 solar fridges worth Shs600m to Odupi Health Centre III, Imvepi Refugee Settlement, .Swinga Health Centre II, Bidibidi Refugee Settlement.

Others included; Bangatuti Health Centre III, .Idiwa Health Centre III, Palorinya Refugee Settlement, PaludaHealth Centre II, Nakivale Refugee Settlement and Rulongo health centre II among others.

 

Rulongo health centre II in Isingiro is the converging area for refugees from Rwanda, Congo and Burundi. Like Bidibidi, Rulongo has greatly benefitted from the fridge especially during the pandemic.

 

“The problem we commonly get with vaccines is storage but this fridge is on 24 hours so you immunize and vaccinate clients at any time. For example we have already vaccinated people from covid-19,” Juliet Tuhirirwe, a midwife at Rulongo health centre 2 said.

 

Additionally, the fridges provided large space allowing for more doses of vaccines to be stored.

 

Speaking days after commemoration of the world refugee day, Conrad Olowo, Project Manager, MTN Foundation says MTN has over the years dedicated a lot of support to all communities including refugees in Uganda.

“We are glad to have played a critical role in strengthening the fight against covid-19. MTN through its operations also ensures to contribute to the fight against the virus through streamlining communication and financial services through mobile money,” he said.

 

He was reiterated by Wendy Daphne Kasujja the assistant Reporting Officer, External Engagement, UNHCR who affirmed that MTN has supported the refugees in Uganda and host communities with a focus on the health sector.

“Through their donation of medical fridges and construction of a full maternity ward in Palorinya refugee settlement, MTN has helped in ensuring that children get immunized, and contributed to the improvement of maternal and child health. The support received is not limited to refugees alone but includes the host communities in which they live, since refugees access the same government health facilities as the nationals,” she says.

UNHCR urged the private sector to support the refugee response in Uganda; a home to 1.5 million refugees and asylum-seekers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MTN water ambulance saves lives in Kiyindi

“An expectant mother in Buvuma hoped for a normal and safe delivery just like any other woman on earth. But for women in Buvuma, it was a matter of life or death. The health centre three on the island surrounded by water can only handle ordinary deliveries. In case of C-sections, the expectant mother would need to be ferried to Kiyindi town council, where she can be operated on. But the only ferry available rides on a schedule; three times a day,” former mayor kiyindi town council Dickson Kasujja Kabuye reminisces.

The Kiyindi-Buvuma route currently has one ferry that carries 120 passengers and 8 cars, making three trips each day between Kiyindi landing site in Buikwe district and Kirongo landing site in Buvuma district.

Essentially, there was no emergency medical relief for an expectant mother in need of operation on Buvuma Island.

It all changed in June last year when MTN donated an emergency ambulance water boat to Kiyindi.

The 15 Seater state-of-the-art water rescue vessel would be used to respond to water transport and health emergencies in Buvuma and Buikwe districts among other areas served by the Kiyindi landing site.

The modern water emergency rescue vessel made by Fisheries Training Institute, Entebbe and licensed by Ministry of Works and Transport was worth Ush 52 Million made of fibre glass, enveloped by a waterproof canopy and cushion seats.

It has a Yamaha outboard engine DT 40, anchor, 2 oars, fire extinguisher, 5 lifeguards, first aid box and patient stretcher.

According to Kabuye, the boat has been very useful in transporting patients from Buvuma to access medical services from Buikwe district.

“Almost 50 per cent of the people living in Buvuma are from Buikwe district so the boat helps us to transport them from Buvuma to the main island of Buikwe so it is very useful to us,” he says.

He goes on to narrate; “Previously, there was no way you could transport an expectant mother to Buikwe district because you had to wait for a ferry which moves in shifts. Now it is very easy to transport because this boat runs so fast,” he says.

The boat, Kabuye says takes about 30 minutes to move from Buvuma district to Buikwe mainland in Kiyindi for medical care.

The boat was also very essential during the days of lockdown during which covid-19 patients were transported from Buvuma to Buikwe for medical health care.

“We got about 3-5 COVID-19 patients from Buvuma so it would go and pick them and finds the motor ambulance stationed in Kiyindi,” he says.

Fishermen deaths mitigated

The tales were not unique to the town council. Fishermen live to hail the ambulance which has saved lives of many on the lake.

Paul Jumba, leader of fishermen in Kiyindi mans the emergency boat along with 2 others.  He narrates that on his many rides called upon by the town folk, he has saved many people from drowning.

“I have saved some people we have found drowning using our first aid kit,” he says.

But the commonest occurrence is the exhaustion of fuel in water boats on the lake.

“Since there is no petrol station on the lake, we run to the rescue of the fishermen on the lake,” he says.

Jumba also reveals that the boat has transported district officials around the islands to sensitise different members of the public on how to maintain standards of operation such as wearing masks and washing hands.

The donation of the emergency boat followed a request from the fishing community last year when MTN Uganda staff visited Kiyindi landing site to launch their annual staff voluntary program dubbed “21 days of y’ello care”.

Mr Patrick Tusiime, the regional commercial head said MTN is proud to have contributed to the safeguarding of lives around the islands only accessible through water.

“We appreciate the work accomplished by the team manning the boat. MTN prioritizes lives of the people we serve and we are glad that the boat is saving and helping many people in the region,” he also noted.

 

Damba’s hearing impairment kindled his search for entrepreneurial skills from MTN youth skilling program

Harunah Damba lived an ordinary life until the fateful year of 2015.  Falling ill for about three years, the young man slowly started to lose his hearing ability. Ear by ear, the sound disappeared. The silence was so loud. At only 22 years, Damba became deaf.

“In 2015, I suffered an illness and developed difficulty in hearing. The problem started with my left ear and later shifted to my right ear, and soon silence etched in both my ears,” he narrates.

After several failed attempts by medical doctors to treat his illness, an old lady convinced Damba’s parents to take him home. She advised that they use herbal medicine which they also later learnt was useless.

Faced with the new reality that he would be deaf, Damba did not take it so well. It was no easy feat.

“I didn’t know any bit of sign language and neither did my parents nor relatives. I used to live in seclusion because it was difficult, almost impossible for me to engage in any conversation. While in such a situation, I could see that most of my friends with similar impairment had a lot on their mind, asking questions like; would we ever get a decent living and or good employment?” he recounts.

Corridor talk from the Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) fraternity illuminated him to the discrimination that would befall him in the employment market.

“I knew the future was going to be hard without any form of self-employment,” he says. It was at that moment that Damba made the decision to become an entrepreneur.

Damba is an entrepreneur

With the help of his dad, Damba has made strides in his ambitions.

At only 27 years, in a country reeling with youth unemployment, Damba owns a garden, sugarcane plantation and a poultry house of both local and exotic birds. The young lad also leased land for a brickmaking project.

He earns enough from his businesses to meet his needs.

Damba is also a beacon amongst the PWD fraternity in Bweyogerere where he is the chairperson-elect of PWDs at the parish and founder of United Persons with Disabilities (UPWDs), a disabled peoples’ organization in Bweyogerere parish.

“The organization has transformed into a social impact body tackling youth unemployment and increasing empowerment. We are still in the budding stage and using our own resources to set an example of what we really committed to. Currently, we are running two projects for the benefit of PWDs; bead making and poultry, and we are devising means of investing in mushroom growing,” he reveals.

Damba qualifies as a jack of all traits having volunteered at Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) as a junior scientist before the covid-19 outbreak.

“I am thrilling at the epitome of my efforts. At the moment, I am looking at ways to expand my businesses and also integrate modern technologies,” he revels in his success.

MTN Youth skilling program

It was in his efforts to expand his business and hone skills in digital technology and youth social entrepreneurship that Damba landed on the MTN youth skilling program which he has since learnt extensively from.

“I am greatly enthralled to discover how ICT and entrepreneurship is bridging the rampant unemployment gap, and making PWDs resourceful and valuable. I commend the approach being used to train the next generation of young leaders which involves a paid training to acquire an internationally recognized International Certificate of digital literacy (ICDL) with cutting-edge modules tailored to our problems, business training, networking and mentorship,” he says.

Bearing Haruna’s hearing impairment in mind, the youth skilling program which was conducted online, ensured he was included through utilizing zoom online services which carried captions for interpretation.

“The zoom app has inclusive features like automatic captioning and a chat window. So I utilized them to always ask whenever I had not understood the concept and they were indeed mindful of the fact that the program includes people like me. We also heard google classroom and this is where most of the content was posted from class materials to reference content,” he explains.

He goes on to add; “I see this opportunity as an optimal catalyst for me to launch a career in ICT and youth social entrepreneurship to the level where I can create economic and employment opportunities for not only myself but also a wider range of individuals.”

Challenges

In spite of this success, it has not been a rosy journey for the young gentleman from Namanve. His hearing impairment has cost him friends and shone upon him a judgmental light in society.

“Most of my friends do not know sign language and many could not spare time to write while communicating to me. Many of them felt offended when I retorted because of my disability that I couldn’t hear them and that they please write down what they are saying. Also, many still have the false perception against us, the disabled. They see our disability more than our abilities. They are quick to judge what I can and can’t do because of my disability, yet I am more than what they perceive me to be,” he notes.

Shaking off the grim, Damba believes the future is bright.

He is certain that he is now an asset to drive his association; UPWDs, from a grass root level to an internationally recognized institution, having attained knowledge and skills in resource mobilization, business setup and management along with soft skills: networking, collaboration, presentation among others.

In five years, Damba envisions himself as a successful entrepreneur.