In the months leading up to our 2019 Gala, we’ll feature stories showcasing how MATTER and our partners are finding solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing our world today. This week continues our look at the challenge that half of the world’s population is unable to access essential health services.
According to a recent report, more than half of South Africa’s population, upwards of 30 million people, live in poverty. Of that number, it’s estimated that around three million are living in informal settlements. Like slums, the housing in these unplanned areas is of self-constructed, precarious tin shacks. With limited access to water and little to no sanitation or electricity, informal settlements are rife with violence and disease. Healthcare, not surprisingly, is nearly non-existent.
Despite these desperate living conditions, there is hope. And for many, her name is Dr. Ellenore Meyer. A general practitioner with a master’s degree in ethics and health law, and a diploma in health leadership and executive management, Dr. Ellenore is committed to improving the lives of people living in these overlooked areas. But the challenge before her is daunting.
“South Africa has the highest HIV/AIDS and TB stats in the world. One in four women will also be raped in our country in their lifetime. Women and children are very vulnerable in our country. In informal settlements, women often face food insecurity, and safety issues that need to be addressed along with their health needs.”
As a senior clinical health manager for the University of Pretoria, and in her role as a researcher for the Department of Family Medicine, Dr. Ellenore and her team are revolutionizing healthcare in these neglected areas, and in the process, may well show the rest of the world how to make healthcare effective, low-cost and accessible for all.
Using a health app developed by the Department of Family Medicine under the leadership of Department Head Professor Jannie Hugo, community health workers go door-to-door, gathering data from residents regarding health needs. From the data they collect, Dr. Ellenore can determine which patients need immediate care at a clinic and which can be treated in the home, thus allocating limited resources in the most effective way possible. This innovative system of assessing community healthcare using technology, which they call,”Community Orientated Primary Care” (COPC), is groundbreaking.
But in order for COPC to work, there needs to be clinics in the settlements. Currently, the University of Pretoria and partner, Rotary E-Club of Southern Africa, are overseeing the construction of a holistic health site at the Melusi informal settlement. Phase 1 began with a clinic-container provided by MATTER. With the generous support of Edina Morningside Rotary Club, Edina Noon Rotary Club, and the Sesego Foundation, the container arrived in May of 2019 to a joyous reception by the staff who are eager to see the clinic in full use, providing free integrative medical, dietetic and social care for the 18,000 residents in Melusi.
Phase 2 of the Melusi Holistic Health Site will include educational and skill development in cooking and nutrition. Phase 3 will focus on offering accredited training for current school teachers in nine early learning centers, as well as developing an interactive learning site with technology and innovative learning for children and adults. Though funding is still needed for Phases 2 and 3, Dr. Ellenore is optimistic about its future and the impact it will have on the people of Melusi.
“We hope that the Melusi COPC approach linked with comprehensive primary care on site will enable people to not only access the basic health care needed, but to assist them to self-actualize their needs to ensure that they can live healthier and happier lives.”
MATTER is truly honored to partner with visionaries like Dr. Ellenore and the University of Pretoria who are leading the way in finding innovative solutions increasing health access and improving life for people in South Africa’s informal settlements. Join us, and our amazing partners, as we tackle some of these giant challenges facing our world today. Together, we’re changing the world in South Africa and beyond!