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Timely nursing practice in Uganda

Elena Craven with Ugandan doctors and a nurse.
Elena Craven with Ugandan doctors and a nurse. / E. Craven
  • Elena Craven, a student nurse from Rincón de la Victoria, has just returned from Uganda, where Covid-19 threatens to join an already long list of life-threatening diseases

One week before the coronavirus lockdown was announced in Spain, 25-year-old Elena Craven returned from a two-week expedition to Uganda, with the Malaga-based NGO, SAWA, which means 'Together' in Arabic.

Elena is studying to become a nurse in Malaga and she explains that putting her training into practice for an NGO was something she had wanted to do for a long time.

It was her first time in Africa and she says, "You soon realise the value of every day things and how fortunate we are."

Elena was collaborating with a medical team which set up a temporary field hospital in a small village in Uganda to test children for Malaria and other diseases. "Every single test we ran was positive," she says.

She and her team also taught children basic hygiene, like how to wash their hands and feet, distributed mosquito nets and helped to install water tanks with a system to collect rain water. She also describes how the team treated the feet of over 200 children to help prevent against jiggers, or chigoe fleas; a parasitic insect found in sub-Saharan Africa. "We would disinfect the feet, remove the jiggers and apply Vaseline to the feet to prevent the insects from coming back again," she explains.

The trip coincided with the rapid spread of Covid-19 in Europe, and in particular Spain, and it has made Elena philosophical about the virus here.

"The people in Uganda only have a few basic resources and many illnesses they have to deal with already," she says. "While I was there, there were no reported cases but I have heard there are some now and if it spreads there, they already have the existing diseases and it's like coronavirus is one more to add to that."

Elena goes on to reflect that the idea of social distancing in Europe is relatively easy - most people live in a house, with windows.

"In Uganda the houses and schools don't have doors and windows and a lot of people don't wear shoes. It's very difficult in small African communities where people live together to social distance."

Despite the hardship, Elena describes the people she met as "happy with what they have". People are "always singing and dancing", she says, adding "and of course the landscape is overwhelmingly beautiful".

Elena took with her two big suitcases full of clothes, shoes, medicines and sanitary products, all of which were donated by friends, family and colleagues and she continues to collect donations.

SAWA works predominantly in Africa and the Middle East in disaster areas, health, education, aid distribution, investment and scholarship programmes.

According to the Johns Hopkins University, there are currently 55 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Uganda. In response to the crisis, SAWA has set up an aid programme to help communities in the countries it already works in.

Elena hopes to go back to Uganda as she continues her studies here in Malaga, but points out that given the current situation she is "not sure when that might be."