A team of 6 from Kirkby Lonsdale led by Doctors Simon and (newly qualified) Emily Kaye, travelled out to Uganda, where we worked, bringing free medical care to those who cannot afford treatment.
We set up clinics in school halls and churches on the outskirts of Kampala and in the jungle at Nakaseke and travelled for about 8 hours on some lunar surfaced roads to do clinics in the Northern city of Gulu. This is an area of great need as it was where Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army waged war for more than 2 decades.
Overall we saw 1200 people, gave out thousands of pounds worth of medicines, 600 mosquito nets, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, water purifying tablets and reading glasses. We also offered HIV testing-with counselling-and malaria testing and saw 120 sponsored children and gave them health checks, with follow up dental and opticians’ appointments and new shoes. We supplied beautifully made kits that contain washable sanitary towels (provided by www.daysforgirls.org) to the older girls – as many girls drop out of school because they have no sanitary protection.
The commonest complaints were: coughs and runny noses from infections and ubiquitous red road dust, joint and back pain from heavy work and digging, fungal skin infections, stomach pain and indigestion from infrequent and stodgy meals, abdominal pain with diarrhoea or constipation from infections and parasites, malaria, and chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
We also saw some very sad cases, such as a 15 year old boy who was dying of cancer, a tiny baby with a bone infection in his lower leg (which will probably not grow well if he survives the infection), some suspected cancers which we referred for further treatment, a lady with a tumour that had caused her to go blind in one eye, a very dehydrated baby whom we transferred straight to a church based hospital (and who survived) and some who had just been diagnosed with HIV.
All the clinics that we did were based in churches – but people did not need to profess a faith to be treated. All were welcome – and we saw many Moslem families. The pastors of the churches were very good in following up any patients who needed support.
One girl was brought to us by her step mother after she had been raped by her father. She was 9 years old. The police had become involved and her father was in custody but no medication had been provided. We ensured that the girl was examined by a female doctor (Emily), with a female translator (who it so happened had been raped herself when she was 15); that she was allowed to talk if she needed and that she had appropriate medication. The pastor arranged for the family’s transport home and we paid for a week’s groceries for them (dad wouldn’t be earning…) The step mother was overwhelmed by the care she received and has since been coming to the church. Emily is now sponsoring the girl and the CRM has given her a safe home (in agreement with her family) whilst they arrange a good boarding school for her. The girl is an amazingly resilient character and very bright- she tells us that she is happy to be sponsored and out of the reach of her father.
As in most GP surgeries in the UK we saw a predominance of mums with babies and children and some elderly ladies. There were a few elderly men and some young men- but-just as here-the males were not as quick as the females to admit their need of help. 50% of the population of Uganda is 15 years old or younger and many of the parents of these children are absent or have died of HIV related illness. Thus there are many grandmothers who are looking after as many as 10 children- not all related to them- in a tiny shack, probably smaller than your sitting room.
We intend to return to Uganda-probably in another 2 years or so – and hope to develop some information leaflets-mostly in pictures – explaining the most common complaints-so that we can leave some printed education behind. We are deeply grateful to the many many people who supported us in prayer and financially – we could not have done any of this without you.
Dr Simon, Dr Emily and Pauline Kaye,
Juliet and Rosie Burd, and Chrissy Cooke