Imagine you are a health worker treating COVID patients.

You have a beautiful wife and baby boy in your hometown, Mbale, while your work keeps you tied up more than 200 kilometres away in Lira.

Now, imagine COVID bringing instability to the region.

Finally, imagine the chaos turning into hostility directed towards those who are trying to improve the situation: health workers.

He did not have to imagine. He knew first-hand. Quitting, however, never even crossed his mind.

“You have to do what is right.
And you have to do what you are meant to do: save lives.”

He has a deep-rooted desire to fulfil the oath he took as a health worker: to keep his people and community healthy and save lives.

The hostility he experienced when treating COVID patients came as a painful reminder of what fear can do.

Cases increased rapidly and even health workers lost hope. But they had to carry on.

“We just had to put all that aside and stand strong for the benefit and health of our community.”

Little by little, he succeeded in educating those around him. Working with the most vulnerable in the community, he provided home-based care to diabetes and HIV patients and other immunocompromised people: those most at risk from the pandemic.

As organisations began to help and information sank in, the number of cases went down. The persistence and courage of the village health teams to care for the sick and forge connections in the community paid off.

But what was the biggest game changer?

Water. Clean water to wash hands, cook with and stay healthy. Not only to reduce the spread of COVID but to tackle all the diseases that are rampant in his district.

“My name is John.

I take action for safe water and hygiene in my community.
I shake things up.”


is a health assistant working for the city council in Lira, a district in northern Uganda. He has a young family which he greatly misses when he works away from home. His dedication to keep his community healthy makes it a little more bearable.



John is part of the Bamasamba nation of eastern Uganda. The Bagishu, a tribe of Bamasamba, are closely related to the Bakusu people of Kenya. When their daughters get married, they receive a dowry from the suitor’s family, usually between three and ten cows.


water points

Water is accessed from community water sources. There are just seven water points for 16 villages. The people from Lira district always have to be on the lookout to protect their water from animals.


teams trained

Village health teams consist mostly of volunteers who deliver basic health services and education to their communities. They perform home visits to people who cannot afford to go to hospital. John helped train 28 teams in his district on COVID prevention.


The story continues