Promoting Human Health Helps Gorillas Too

Promoting Human Health Helps Gorillas Too

In the small village of Bisate, near the forests where the mountain gorillas live, the community has benefited from many projects sponsored by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. The health center, once infested with rats now has clean rooms, toilets, solar panels and water tanks, though it still lacks a kitchen.

In the summer of 2010, a campaign to assess the prevalence and conduct treatment of intestinal parasites will again be conducted, which has not been done in several years.

In 2005, 1,000 people in Bisate were tested and 99 percent had at least one type of intestinal parasite. Ten thousand people were then given preventive treatment and the 1,000 who were tested were treated for their specific ailments. The community was also educated in basic hygiene and how to avoid parasites. Six months later there was a 20 percent drop in the rate of roundworms from 85 percent to 65 percent. The rate of parasites is still high, but it is an improvement. Preventing parasite infection not only helps people but also the gorillas, who are subject to disease from the same types of parasites, and can share other human infections as well.

“This is our conservation village,” says Ildephonse Munyagero, ecosystem health project manager for the Fossey Fund. Our mission is to prevent the cross-transmission of disease between the human population and wildlife. As the forest benefits, so will the residents who will have access to a better supply of water, improved health care and conservation education.

Munyagero has been with the Fossey Fund since 2002 and grew up in the Bisate community. His parents live up the hill from the clinic where they grow potatoes and maize. “I was very happy to work for my friends and parents and people in my community.”

Munyagero recognizes that the health center is certainly a rural clinic, with no fancy beeping machines or blinking lights. But it is making a difference in the community. It used to be a rarity for women to come to the health centre to give birth.

“Women now come to deliver at the clinic,” says Munyagero. On a recent morning, mothers who had given birth that day occupied two of the five beds in the maternity. And the other three had been vacated only hours before. By noon the clinic had already seen more than 50 patients. However, although most of the patients who need to stay in the hospital or maternity rooms bring their own food, there is no adequate kitchen area in which they can prepare it, so this is something Munyagero hopes can be funded soon.