Alumni Community Engagement Fund 2020-2021

The CSC’s Alumni Community Engagement Fund (ACEF) supports Commonwealth Alumni in raising awareness of key development issues at the community level through an event or engagement activity.

Each year, the CSC selects the focus themes and invite alumni to draw on their knowledge and skills  in delivering a community engagement activity addressing the theme. This year, the theme was to address two international days: World Water Day on 22 March and World Health Day on 7 April.

Due to restrictions to in-person engagement, the 2020/21 ACEF was adapted to an online delivery method and alumni had the opportunity to design and create a video information session for a chosen community The aim of the session was to communicate key information and raise awareness about valuing water or tackling a health concern.

Six alumni were selected to develop a video information session from over 50 applications.

The videos are now available to watch on CSC’s YouTube channel and have been shared by the alumni on selected social media and other online platforms available within their chosen communities. Read more about the six final videos and challenges they address below.

Valuing water

World Water Day is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. Worldwide, one in three people do not have access to safe drinking water, two out of five people do not have a basic hand-washing facility with soap and water, and more than 673 million people still practise open defecation.

Valuing water is a shared responsibility and education and public awareness on the value of water and its essential role in all aspects of life is critical. Here, we share an overview of the two videos created to communicate key messages around the value of water.

Zambia: The importance of handwashing and using clean water

In Zambia, according to the 2018 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey, 92% of the urban population had access to an improved water source, whereas only 58% of the rural population had access. In the same survey it was reported that 33% of the urban population had a fixed place for handwashing, compared to only 19% of the rural population.

Commonwealth Alumnus, Evelyn Funjika, a lecturer and researcher at the University of Zambia, created her video to raise awareness of the importance of handwashing and the need to improve access to clean water for everyone. The video aims to engage people who live or work in rural areas of Zambia where access to clean water is a challenge, by highlighting the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) principles and how to access alternative sources of clean, safe water for handwashing, no matter the location.

To create her video, Evelyn worked with fellow lecturer and researcher, Dr Peter Cheuka, a social worker and researcher at the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia, Jenala Chipungu, senior social behavioural researcher at the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia ,Kanekwa Zyambo, a researcher at the Tropical gastroenterology and nutrition group, and George Kalaba, a research student pursuing an MSc in Chemistry at the University of Zambia. All four co-organisers are featured in the video.

Since going live on 23 April 2021, the video has received over 150 views and more than 30 likes, and has been a timely reminder of the importance of handwashing  during the COVID-19 pandemic. Evelyn has received positive feedback from Zambia’s Ministry of Health and hopes this will pave the way for future collaboration between the University of Zambia and the government on improving access to clean water.

Evelyn Funjika is a 2014 Commonwealth Scholar. She completed a PhD in Cell Matrix Research at the University of Manchester. Watch the video on the CSC’s YouTube channel.

Uganda: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Worldwide, one in three people do not have access to safe drinking water and these figures are even lower in low income settings. In the Teso sub-region of eastern Uganda, it is estimated that only half the districts have access to safe water. Access is generally found in former camp areas, while the majority of home settlements still lack access to clean and safe water.

Commonwealth Alumnus, Dr Sylivia Nalubega, a Lecturer in Nursing at Soroti University, created an awareness video on the topic of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) aimed at promoting the use of safe water to prevent illness to those living in Uganda.

and she is therefore aware of the important need to spread awareness on the topic of safe water to those living in the Teso sub-region. Working with her colleague Hassan Juma Nyene, public relations officer at Soroti University, the video is designed to raise awareness of safe and sustainable water collection practices, including water storage and water utilisation.

Dr Nalubega shared the video on Soroti University’s social media and online platforms and her own personal social media channels and it has received over  60 views and gained positive feedback from viewers. She plans to continue sharing her video with those living in the region to help avert diseases caused by poor sanitation and hygiene.

Dr Sylivia Nalubega is a 2012 Shared Scholar. She completed an MSc in Advanced Nursing Studies at the University of Nottingham. Watch the video on the CSC’s YouTube channel.

Preparedness and prevention in tackling illnesses and diseases

World Health Day aims to create awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organization (WHO). Alumni were encouraged to select the health concern or challenge most prevalent within their home country and design a video information session that would raise awareness of this. Here, we share an overview of the four videos created to communicate key health messages.

Uganda: Awareness on cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer amongst women in Uganda. In 2017, it was reported to be the number one cause of cancer-related deaths. Without a formal national screening programme available, there is limited awareness of the disease and the importance of cervical screening to aid early detection. Instead, a number of myths and misconceptions have developed which prevent women and girls from understanding the health risks and preventative measures available. There are four stages of cervical cancer and the disease can be treated up until the final stage. It is, therefore, essential that women undergo cervical screenings for early detection and to avoid serious health risks.

Four Commonwealth Alumni who all work in the Kabarole District area created a video to raise awareness about regular cervical cancer screening to avoid late stage diagnosis when treatment is no longer possible. The alumni also hope that the video will encourage girls aged between 10 and 13 years to take up the HPV vaccination which can reduce their chances of developing cervical cancer. The group included lead organiser, Dorine Natukunda a Medical Clinical Officer, Irene Kabachaki, a registered nurse, and Rebecca Balinja and Euphrasia Kabahuma, both registered midwives.

Drawing on their professional experiences and observations, they feel women in Uganda lack knowledge on cervical cancer and too often seek medical attention in the late stage of the disease, when treatment is no longer possible. To address this knowledge gap, the alumni designed a video to inform women about cervical cancer, including causes, stages, possible prevention, and availability of treatment services in different health facilities in Uganda. As well as key messages on cervical cancer screening, the video also aims at increasing the uptake of the HPV vaccination among girls aged 10 to 13 years. The alumni hope the video encourages women to go for cervical screening, leading to early detection and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions.

The video has been screened in the health clinics where the alumni work and they estimate that at least 90% of women attending the clinics have viewed the video. The alumni are pleased to report there has been an increase in the number of women visiting the clinics for cervical screenings. They also note that HIV positive women have become more aware of the extent of the risks to them and have shown eagerness to take advantage of the screening services in addition to their anti-retroviral treatment services.

Dorine Natukunda, Irene Kabachaki, and Rebecca Balinja are 2019 Commonwealth Professional Fellows. They completed their Fellowship with Knowledge for Change. Euphrasia Kabahuma is a 2015 Commonwealth Professional Fellow. She completed her Fellowship at the University of Salford. Watch the video on the CSC’s YouTube channel.

India: Youth mental health awareness

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 20% of young people are likely to experience some form of mental illness such as depression, mood disturbances, substance abuse, suicidal behaviours, eating disorders. India’s Census 2011 reported that youth (aged 15-24 years) constitute one-fifth of India’s total population. These two statistics point to a huge population of young people who may be at-risk or experiencing mental disorders in India, which may lead to significant morbidity, mortality, and costs to the individual and society. The current COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the youth who feel isolated and socially disconnected. There is a stigma attached to mental health issues and very limited resources available, which makes it essential to spread awareness about mental health challenges.

Commonwealth Alumnus Dr Vijaya Ragahavan’s video aims to educate youth in India on the causes and symptoms of depression. He is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Head of the Youth Mental Health Programme at the Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF). To create the video, he worked with Dr Shivapraskash, a Consultant Psychiatrist who offered support and guidance on the video content. The short video also involved young people who contributed their perspective and thus ensured the video met the needs of the larger intended audience. The young people involved were Amrita Jayasurya, Hanisha Arulvendan, Raghvi Sampath, Sruthi Mohan, and Vignesh Raja.

Dr Raghavan highlights the importance of raising awareness about mental health, in particular depression, and the real issues facing children and young people which are often overlooked and unspoken. The video is presented in a narrative form, enabling the viewer to hear the inner thoughts and feelings as experienced by the central protagonist, and to give voice to young people facing depression. Through this format, the video explains what depression is, its symptoms and behavioural changes, and the need to seek professional help.

Dr Raghavan shared his video on SCARF’s social media channels and within the first few weeks of posting, the video has received over 300 views and been shared a widely. Overall, comments have indicated the video is a great initiative and that awareness of depression is much needed.

Dr Vijaya Raghavan is a 2019 Commonwealth Professional Fellow. He completed his Fellowship at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. Watch the video on the CSC’s YouTube channel.

Nigeria: Awareness on health implications of informal e-waste recyclers

Worldwide, 20-50 million tonnes of electronic waste (e-waste) such as discarded computers, refrigerators, and televisions are generated annually. Nigeria is the second largest receiver of e-waste in the world and the highest importer in Africa, with up to 100,000 informal workers operating in the sector. E-waste is disposed by open burning, leading to toxic elements and organic substances being released, which endanger the environment and human health. E-waste recyclers work without personal protective equipment (PPE) and as such can experience various health complications.

Commonwealth Alumnus Oluwaseun Anselm, a doctoral researcher in Environmental Chemistry at the University of Lagos, developed an informative video designed to target informal e-waste recyclers and improve their awareness of the health and environmental risks. The key messages in her video included the adverse effects of burning toxic waste, advocating for the use of PPE amongst recyclers, and the need to find an alternative approach to these methods of recycling.

Oluwaseun has shared the video on her personal social media and has received over 70 views. The video has been shared on various social media groups for e-waste recyclers and their group leaders and has received positive comments indicating that the video was highly educative. Oluwaseun has been doing education and outreach with recycling associations and is in talks with local radio stations to boost the broadcast platform for the video.

Oluwaseun Anselm is a 2017 Commonwealth Split-site Scholar. She completed her PhD in Environmental Chemistry from the University of Lagos and University of Strathclyde. Watch the video on the CSC’s YouTube channel.

Kenya: Awareness on eye-health

According to the WHO, at least 2.2 billion people have vision impairment or blindness, of which over 1 billion cases could have been prevented or have yet to be addressed. The WHO reports that eye care is a critical component of universal health coverage and should be integrated into wider health systems. Unfortunately, eye care workers feel that it still does not receive adequate attention at policy or facility level, which impacts access to eye care of sufficient quality.

Commonwealth Alumni Cynthia Ogundo and Dr Rebecca Oenga, both ophthalmologists working in a public hospitals in Kenya, teamed up with Dr Nyawira Mwangi a Senior Lecturer at the Kenya Medical Training College, Nairobi, to create a video information session to spread awareness about eye healthcare.

The video focuses on refractive error and ocular allergy, two of the most common eye conditions in Kenya and was targeted towards children and youth. The goal of the video was to provide information on these two eye conditions, how they can be managed, and the need to access affordable eye care as an integral part of quality health care. To keep the video content fun and engaging for their chosen audience they included a short animation, collaborating with Victor Isika, a local student, who created the clip, with the narration provided by Shanice Ogundo.

Dr Ogundo has shared the video on her personal online social media platform through which it has received over 90 views, including reactions and comments stating that the video was very informative. Following the publication of the video, Dr Ogundo has followed up with some of the viewers to discuss the content which has resulted in increased visits to the eye clinic for check-ups.

Dr Cynthia Ogundo is a 2019 Commonwealth Shared Scholar and her co-organiser Dr Rebecca Oenga is a 2017 Commonwealth Shared Scholar. They both completed an MSc in Public Health for Eye Care from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Watch the video on the CSC’s YouTube channel.