The Program to Roll out Key Family Care Practices in Northern Uganda and Karamoja Sub-region is an initiative between the Inter-religious Council of Uganda, Ministry of Health and UNICEF Uganda. The program covers high burden districts which includes all the eight (8)  districts of Karamoja i.e, Abim, Napak, Kaabong, Amudat, Nakapiripit, Moroto, Kotido; in Northern Uganda, for lango sub region  it covers the districts of Kole, Agago, Otuke and Oyam while in Acholi sub region Kitgum, Lamwo, Gulu and Amuru.

The program was conceived out of the need to reduce maternal and child mortality that is endemic in both regions of Uganda. It was precipitated by the resolutions of a conference on Maternal, Reproductive and Child Health (MRNAH) that took place in Kampala in July 2015 where religious leaders across the country resolved to take a more active role in the promotion of child and maternal health in the country.

It should also be noted that this year (2017) was declared as the year of the family by the government of Uganda. It is therefore pertinent that religious leaders begin discussing issues to improve family and community life and health in particular. The Key Family Care Practices package rolled out by religious leaders also comes at the heels of the launch of the Integrated Early Childhood Policy (IECD) that was recently launched by the government of Uganda.

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Why Religious Leaders?

Uganda is a highly religious country, with 98% (Census 2014, UBOS) of the population belonging to one religion or the other and therefore religion plays a central role in people’s lives. In addition religion permeates the most hard to reach areas with religious leaders and institutions who provide social services in education, looking after orphans, health services etc. Furthermore, religious leaders still enjoy a prophetic voice and are blessed and guaranteed with readily available platforms where they reach out to multitudes of people on a daily basis. For example the Muslim faith flock to mosques every day culminating into Juma prayers on Fridays, the SDA faith on Saturdays and other Christians on Sundays. This is a great potential that IRCU would like to tap into so that religious leaders use these platforms to talk to their congregations about Key family care Practices. A total of 872 religious leaders are expected to actively participate in this program.

What are Key Family Care Practices?

Family Care Practices are simple practices which when practiced have been scientifically proven to significantly reduce morbidity and mortality. They are twenty two (22) in number and include, promoting immunization, hand washing, taking family members to hospital when sick, keeping children in school, using of pit latrines for defecation, attending antenatal care, educating children etc.

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How is the program designed?

This program will build the capacity of 872 religious leaders who are expected to integrated messages on Key Family Care Practices into their  normal (pastoral) work such as prayers and when carrying out other religious events. The messages will target youths, men and women at churches and mosques, households and in communities. Religious leaders are expected to create time to promote at least one Key Family Care Practices for example after prayers, during sermons.  Upon hearing these messages, it expected that communities will change their behavior, uptake Key family care Practices and finally improve their health.

The program is expected to continuously be run by religious leaders in communities that it has been launched. A committee called the district interfaith committee will be set up to link with the district office so that the local governments are abreast with what happens in communities and also provide an opportunity for religious leaders to get support from the district especially the District Health Office.