New emerging results booklet on the burden, seasonality, lived experience of AGI among the Batwa of Uganda

The IHACC-Uganda team has just issued a draft emerging results booklet of recent research on the burden, seasonality, lived experience, and health seeking behaviour options for acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) among the Batwa of Kanungu District, Uganda. The emerging results booklet features quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods analyses from three undergraduate honours theses from IHACC students: Sierra Clark (McGill University), Alison Sumner (University of Guelph) and Laura-Jane Weber (University of Guelph). The IHACC team is currently receiving feedback on the results and a sample of booklets are being distributed to local stakeholders and community members in Kanungu. Read the online version of the booklet here:

Booklet designed by Sierra Clark and Stephanie Austin Contents compiled by Sierra Clark and Alison Sumner

Notes from the field: Sarah MacVicar and Vivienne Steele in Buhoma, Uganda (part II)


Sarah MacVicar, an M.Sc. student from McGill University is in Uganda conducting her thesis research with Vivienne Steele, a Research Assistant from the University of Guelph. Here is their second update from the field! Text and photos by Vivienne Steele and Sarah MacVicar.

Vivienne, Grace, and Sarah It’s hard to believe that we are halfway through our time in Bwindi. Things have been going very well, and we are looking forward to making the most of our last two weeks here!

We have had the opportunity to visit six communities in Kanungu District—two Bakiga and four Batwa communities. In each visit, with Saba and Grace’s guidance and translations, we heard some of the stories of childbirth and delivery from the women in the community. These powerful narratives will be guiding our research as Vivienne investigates antenatal attendance and Sarah looks into how climate change may affect birth outcomes in the region.

For our brief mid-trip break, we had the chance to go visit Lake Bunyonyi, a lake in the Kabale District, near the border of Rwanda, rumoured to be the second deepest lake in Africa (up to 900 m deep!). We stayed in a “geodome” style house, with an open view of the night sky. Crawfish from the lake was on the menu – as well as dodo pizza! Before leaving, we headed out on the lake for a morning paddle in a dugout canoe – beautiful, made us feel like we were back in Canada.


IMG_1914Other gastronomic experiences: Sarah tried jackfruit for the first time and loved them! We will definitely be having more before departing. We also had supper at the Bwindi Community Hospital’s guest house, which was a great opportunity to interact more with folks from the hospital.

We are looking forward to our remaining time here, with an upcoming visit from our supervisors Professor Berrang Ford and Professor Harper! They will be here with and with several other IHACC PI’s—Didacus Namanya, Dr. Lwasa, and Professor Ford. We will be continuing data entry at BCH and doing a few more key informant interviews as we wrap up our research over the next few weeks.

Notes from the field: Sarah MacVicar and Vivienne Steele in Buhoma, Uganda


Sarah MacVicar, an M.Sc. student from McGill University is in Uganda conducting her thesis research with Vivienne Steele, a Research Assistant from the University of Guelph. Sarah's work will examine the potential effects of climate change on maternal and child health among Indigenous communities in the Kanungu District of Uganda. Here is their first update from the field! Text and photos by Vivienne Steele and Sarah MacVicar.

Sarah MacVicar, and a view of Biwindi Impenetrable Forest. Today is the first day of our third week here in Uganda. We have now spent more than a week in Buhoma, and we have been busy! Before arriving here, however, we met with partners at Makerere University and the Ministry of Health in Kampala. We were able to coordinate logistics of our upcoming five weeks of fieldwork, which involves conducting key informant interviews and community focus group discussions about pregnancy and delivery experiences in the region.

Airplane View v3

Vivienne Steele, on a runAfter catching an Aerolink flight over the impressive hills of western Uganda, we were welcomed by the staff at Green Tree Lodge, who were happy to host more visitors from IHACC. Luckily for me, I had already met the staff on my last trip, and was happy to see them again!

We started our work in Buhoma with a visit to Bwindi Community Hospital (BCH) to reconnect with staff we had worked with during our last visit. We also introduced ourselves to new and visiting staff at BCH, and were pleased to receive updates on the hospital from BCH’s executive director. Since we spend a portion of every day at the hospital, it has been helpful to invest time in getting to know all of the staff and their roles there.

One of our fieldwork goals is to visit five communities (two Bakiga communities and three Batwa settlements) in the area, in order to ask questions about pregnancy and childbirth experiences. Our first three visits have gone well; it has been exciting to meet the communities we heard much about beforehand. With the guidance of our mobilizers and translators, Seba and Grace, we have heard stories from community members and been able to share meals with the communities. One highlight was seeing a group of piglets running around near the community centre! (Sarah wanted to take one home).

Although the rainy season was supposed to have ended a month ago, we are still experiencing some heavy downpours! At one point, the rain hit during our walk home from BCH, and we had to run into a shop to buy an umbrella to continue on home. According to our friends here, the rains have stretched on a month longer than usual. It is also been “cold” here in the mornings, and we have taken advantage of this by going for a brief jog before the day begins!


Sylvia takes Batwa story to NYC as an invited speaker at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)


Sylvia Kokunda, a Batwa surveyor and research assistant to the IHACC project, was invited to speak about the Batwa plight to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City. Sylvia was the first Batwa woman from the Bwindi region to attend secondary school and earn a university degree. She now works with the Batwa Development Program as agriculture manager for the Batwa. To find out more about Sylvia's experience, click here to read her featured story in the Kellermann Foundation's news letter.

New IHACC project article by Jolène Labbé in Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change

Congratulations to Jolène Labbé for her newly published article in the latest edition of Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change entitled "Vulnerability to the health effects of climate variability in rural southwestern Uganda". Read the abstract below, or click on the title above to access the article.  


Vulnerability to the health impacts of climate change will be shaped by the existing burden of ill- health and is expected to be highest in poor and socio-economically marginalized populations. Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, is considered a highly vulnerable region. This paper analyses the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of rural Bakiga communities in southwestern Uganda to climate-sensitive health risks. The objectives were threefold: i) identify key climate-sensitive, community-identified health priorities; ii) describe and characterize determinants of sensitivity to these health priorities at the individual, community and regional levels; and iii) assess the adaptive capacity of Bakiga. Data collection employed a combination of individual and key informant interviews, biographies, future storylines, and Photovoice. Three key health risks were identified by the study communities (malaria, food insecurity, and gastrointestinal illnesses) – all affected by local climatic and environmental conditions, livelihoods, land use changes, and socio-economic conditions. Adaptation within these communities is dependent on their capacity to reduce sensitivities to identified health challenges among the potential of increasing exposures. Crop diversification, reducing deforestation, expanding of livestock rearing, transfer of traditional knowledge, and access to affordable health services are among potential strategies identified. We demonstrate significant existing vulnerabilities to present day climate-related health risks and highlight the importance of non-climatic processes and local conditions in creating sensitivity to health risks. Our place-based understanding is useful to inform interventions or policies aimed to reduce exposure and sensitivity and support adaptive capacity as the conditions these communities face are consistent with many other sub-Saharan African countries.