Stories from the frontlines

Our trip to Uganda and Kenya

By Coralie Bish, Sara Kirkwood and Maddie McCall 

In February, we had the immense privilege of traveling to Uganda and Kenya to work with the local MSI programs that are supported by generous donors. During our trip, we met and collaborated with the incredible teams in those countries. We joined outreach teams, visited public support sites, and chatted with an MS Lady champion. Seeing this work in person brought into relief the amazing impact every MSI team member makes. Through their effort, women in these countries have choice, often for the first time.

On the road with outreach

Our journey began in Uganda. There, MSI serves over 1 million people a year, meeting 30% of the country’s need for contraception. In Kampala, we met the MSI Uganda team. Uganda faces significant challenges. Access to safe abortion is only allowed in life-threatening situations. Care after an unsafe abortion can be hard to find. Yet every year, tens of thousands of women risk their lives undergoing an unsafe abortion.

An Outreach team van leaving an outreach site in Kigambo  

As we traveled to Fort Portal, we visited the Mubende Outreach team. They were on their way to offer services at the remote Kigambo HC II health center. The journey took us several hours over dirt roads and through dense forests. As the car bumped along, we felt MSI’s commitment to travel the last mile. It’s the only way to ensure that every person who needs reproductive healthcare has access to it.  

Once we arrived, teams got right to work: dispensing short term methods, performing vasectomies, and offering group counseling sessions about the types of contraception available. The team, comprising a driver, a doctor, a team leader, and a counselor, serves around 60 to 70 women each day. They face significant challenges, including supply shortages and the need to educate the community, especially adolescents, about reproductive health. 

The Mubende Outreach team arrives at a rural health center in Kigambo. 

For many women in Uganda and Kenya, MSI’s outreach teams are the only option for safe, high-quality reproductive healthcare. These women live in some of the most remote parts of the world, beyond the reach of national healthcare systems. With just a few providers, up to 200 clients can receive the care they need in a single day. The outreach teams spend about a week at a time on the road. Between counties, they camp, dedicating significant amounts of time to do this critical work. Their commitment is inspiring, and they couldn’t do it without donor support. 

Reaching further with public sector strengthening

We visited several Public Sector Strengthening (PSS) sites on our journey. At these sites, MSI works closely with local health facilities to improve their capacity to provide comprehensive reproductive health services. The impact this work has for women and girls was never clearer than on our visit to the Kisomoro HCII. This is an indirect PSS site where MSI Uganda has trained local healthcare providers.

Once, only short-term methods were available here, requiring women to return frequently if they wanted to use contraception. Now, the center staff confidently offer long-term methods. Village Health Teams speak to families in the community, educating their neighbors about the newly available services. 

Grace shares the advancements at the Health Centre since MSI started providing support 

We also attended an adolescent social behavior change and communication (SBCC) session in Kisumu. There, organizers efforts engaged and educated young people through reproductive health discussions. Sitting in a circle, young men and women from surrounding communities participated in frank conversations about sexual and reproductive health.

Later that day, we participated in a male forum. These forums involve men in reproductive health conversations. Through these discussions, men are educated on topics such as dual protection (preventing both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections), the importance of supporting their partners’ contraceptive use, and myths about family planning. By including men in these conversations, MSI creates a supportive environment for women. The goal is that reproductive health becomes a shared responsibility. 

Meet the MS Ladies saving lives

One of the most impactful moments of our trip was meeting Christine, an MS Lady in Uganda. She transitioned from managing a small drug store to providing comprehensive healthcare services, including family planning and post-abortion care.

MS Lady Christine seeing us off, in front of her storefront in Fort Portal 

Christine’s story of professional growth and dedication inspired us as we toured her tidy clinic. She now mentors other healthcare providers and other MS Ladies, ensuring the continuation of high-quality services in her community. 

Lives changed by choice

Our teams quite literally go the last mile – past the point where the paved road gives out or the gas tank runs empty. When they can’t get there by truck, they take motorbikes or even walk. They know that if they don’t go, there will be consequences for the women who have walked hours to meet them. 

Annette Akinyi speaks to us outside the health clinic after receiving a contraceptive implant. 

At one outreach site in Kenya, we spoke to Annette Akinyi, a 22-year-old with a young child. She had traveled for miles, her child on her back, just to receive care. She told us about the hardships she’s faced in her life–and her determination to take control of her reproductive health. Without MSI, she would have had no options. But because our outreach team made the journey, she was able to decide her own future.

Now back in the US a few months later, reflecting on our journey, we are still profoundly inspired by the resilience and determination of the MSI clients and team members that we met. All of us, from donors to healthcare workers, are not only transforming individual lives but also building stronger, healthier communities. 

Midwife Kezabu Racheal giving a youth counselling session at the Kisomoro HCII PSS site. 

The work MSI does is vital and life-changing. By supporting these programs, US donors are not just providing healthcare. We are fostering hope, empowering women, and paving the way for a brighter future for all. The distance may be great, but the impact of our support reaches far beyond what we can see, creating ripples of positive change across Uganda, Kenya, and beyond. 

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