Get to Know Us: Malteser International Fosters Community Collaboration to Reduce Disaster Risk in Uganda 

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As an effort to advance the inclusive disaster risk reduction agenda, our Disability-inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DiDRR) project, “Putting Persons with Disabilities at the Centre of Humanitarian Preparedness and Response”, has been jointly implemented by four organisations specialised in disability inclusion: Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB), Centre for Disability in Development (CDD), Christoffel Blindenmission (CBM), Malteser International (MI), and International Disability Alliance (IDA).

This project is a global collaboration to strengthen the capacity of national and local actors to manage and reduce disaster risk, especially in eight disaster-prone countries: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Niger, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Colombia, and Nicaragua.

We caught up with Dr June Patrick Bigirwa, the Partner Project Manager of Malteser International (MI) in Uganda, to discuss MI’s implementation of the DiDRR project in the country. 

For readers who might be unfamiliar with MI, can you introduce us to your organisation?

Malteser International (MI) is a non-governmental organisation with headquarters in Europe and America. The organisation’s General Secretariat and its European headquarters are located in Cologne, Germany. The American headquarters are based in New York City, USA. MI has been helping people around the world for over 60 years. Developed out of the Foreign Aid Service of the German Malteser Hilfsdienst, MI received its current name in 2005, when it was designated the international aid agency of the Order of Malta. In Africa, we operate in 6 countries with a regional support office in Uganda, three offices in Kenya, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and program offices in Nigeria, Central African Republic, Cameron. 

What does MI do?

MI has been working in Uganda since 1996. Our team in the regional office in Kampala also provides logistical support to our projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan. The MI Uganda team is multidisciplinary, with professionals specialising in health, social sciences, environmental sciences, WASH, human resource specialists, accountants, and administrations. 

What motivates you?

What motivates us is the desire to serve disadvantaged populations. This motivation is also is reflected in our vision of “A life in health and dignity for all”. We believe in a better world for all.

How big is your team?

In total, MI Uganda has over forty staff working in four programmatic areas:

  • health and disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction (DiDRR)
  • water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)
  • food security, nutrition, and livelihoods (FSNL)
  • environmental protection.

How many of the MI staff are working on this DiDRR project?

Malteser International Staff Kampala Office

 

Six people from MI Uganda directly support the DiDRR project. These include the Country Coordinator, the Country Administrative Coordinator, the Partnership Project Manager, the Finance Coordinator, and the MEAL Coordinator. To effectively implement the project, they directly provide programmatic, financial, and administrative support to the partner organisation, the National Union of Women of Disability of Uganda (NUWODU). Active involvement of our partners will promote inclusive perspectives and help us move forward in proposing realistic solutions to any identified problems.

Why did you want to be a partner in the consortium project?

MI has been implementing projects along the continuum of humanitarian assistance, transitional relief, and development cooperation, including disaster risk reduction and humanitarian aid. We wanted to partner in the broader consortium after realising that we have so far not worked in the context of DiDRR on our own. Hence, we are ready to deepen our knowledge on a new scale as we constantly learn and expand our expertise. Based on our long-cherished approach of the People First Impact Method (PFIM), we continuously promote collaboration with communities and local actors and strengthen localisation in our programmes. We thought that joining the consortia would help us advance the agenda of DiDRR to a greater degree. We can harness the diverse approaches and methods among different consortium members, pool resources and expertise, leverage our efforts to reach a wider audience, and achieve more significant results in DiDRR.

Where are you currently in the implementation of the project?

The project is scheduled for 32 months, of which we have already completed the first seven months. In this brief period, 80% of the activities planned for those months have been successfully implemented.

Key components of the project activities include:  

  • Training with stakeholders (local and central government officers, CSOs and INGOs) on disability inclusion; sensitisation and awareness-raising through radio (talk shows and on the spot messages) on available opportunities for women with disabilities.
  • Rapid Assessment of the impact of floods on persons with disabilities in Kasese District (the project area) for the floods that ravaged the project area in July and August 2021. 
  • Project inception meeting at the district level. The inception helped to clarify the roles and responsibilities of each partner on the project, including the project’s expected deliverables.
  • Capacity Assessment of the district-based partners or OPDs, including Rwenzori Association of Parents of Children with Disabilities (RAPCD), Karambi Group of People with Disabilities (KaGPWD), and Kasese District Women with Disabilities (KADIWOD).
  • Development of the Uganda DiDRR Project brief.  
  • Recruitment of key project staff and executing other project operational activities to enable smooth implementation. 

As a result of these activities, thirty-five (35) key stakeholders (local and central government officers, CSOs and INGOs) have been equipped with knowledge on disability inclusion. This knowledge has started to trickle down in their decision-making process. We expect improvement, especially concerning service delivery for persons with disabilities. Our sensitisation and awareness endeavours through radio talk shows and messages have so far reached an estimated 9,000 community members. It includes key messages on DiDRR, mainly focusing on prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. Additionally, following the rapid assessment for the floods of July and August 2021 in the project area of Kasese district, over 150 people, including persons with disabilities, were assisted by other agencies with assorted relief items, including personal protective equipment (PPEs) for prevention of COVID-19 pandemic.

What challenges are you currently facing in terms of implementation?

Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, lockdowns are still enacted in certain parts of the country. Essentially, it challenges our efforts and results in delays in project activities. However, we are slowly mitigating the challenges caused by the pandemic by adhering to the standard operating procedures (SOPs). Further, we have opted to limit the number of participants in activities to follow effective social distancing as one of the measures of controlling the pandemic. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation and economic instability continue to be a burden since prices of commodities and services skyrocketed. However, the challenge is still manageable. We are navigating our way through readjustments of budget lines to cater to the increased costs. These amendments are still within the recommended proportions as per the project contract.

Moreover, the inadequate capacity of our partner has been tackled by addressing it on a case-by-case basis. Training, mentorship, and coaching will improve the capacities of our partners. CBM specialists and other partners with more experience also assisted us to gain vital perspectives and adequate counselling.  

What’s next for you? What are you planning right now?

The next course of action is to implement the remaining activities from May 2021 to March 2022. Major focal points will be on activities 3.1 and 3.2. Activity 3.1 covers the collection and analysis of disaggregated data on disability, including an early warning system at the district level using the Washington Group Questions (WG-SS Enhanced). Activity 3.2 assesses community understanding of WASH and identifies barriers and enablers of the accessibility for persons with disabilities. Initially, we planned to implement Activity 3.2 in December 2021 and Activity 3.1 in January 2022. However, following the inputs we received from two virtual meetings held with CBM and other partners, we decided to conduct Activity 3.1 first in January 2022 and Activity 3.2 afterwards. Findings on Activity 3.1 will give us more information and insights into implementing Activity 3.2.

As of now, we are in the preparation stage for compiling a concept note, assembling a survey team, preparing for the training of the survey team, reviewing the tools and more. Based on the shared experience from the Centre for Disability in Development (CDD), one of the consortium partners based in Bangladesh, we will use two tools for disability data collection. These are the Washington Group Short Set on Functioning – Enhanced (WG-SS Enhanced) for adults above 18 years and the UNICEF disability data tool for children aged 2-4 years and 5-17 years.

Currently, we contribute to the execution of the project activities at the global level. We support the consultant contracted to conduct a global research study and develop a training curriculum on the DiDRR by sharing country-specific ideas and curricula. We have also already shared the necessary DiDRR documents with the consultant for collecting essential data in Uganda, including the key personnel list to be interviewed in Uganda.  

What are you doing particularly well?

We managed to support our partner, NUWODU, in effectively implementing the project through training, mentorship, and coaching. The methods promote and strengthen their capacities and provide vital information for moving forward.

What are you looking forward to?

Although MI has been implementing DiDRR projects in other parts of the world, DiDRR programming is relatively new for MI Uganda. We expect to learn more programming techniques and approaches in this field. We seek to influence DiDRR policy and practice at regional, national, and local levels. We also look forward to developing the DiDRR portfolio at MI Uganda.

If you have any questions for Dr June Patrick Bigirwa, contact him via: patrick.bigirwa@malteserinternational.org

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