January 2017 – Jim McWhirter’s visit

Those of you who have been reading these reports since 2009 will have noticed that they have changed significantly over time. Early reports were full of the emotional impact of seeing human suffering at first hand and the culture shock of coping with the very limited resources available to help.

Inevitably one becomes accustomed to seeing these things and latterly reports have concentrated on our efforts to make longterm improvements. Although improving the efficiency of hospitals is critical to saving the lives of mothers and babies, it doesn’t make such good reading as details of practical work on the hospital wards.

On this, my 15th visit, I have been deeply disturbed once more.
Uganda is a green and pleasant land thanks to two rainy seasons each year following the spring and autumn equinoxes.
Last year the September rains failed with severe consequences for rural subsistence farmers, the community that most of our patients come from and the bulk of the Ugandan population. There are food shortages, increased prices and many are down to one meal a day in the rural areas. In field after field the maize crop has died as shown in the pictures:

Hopefully the rains will come again this spring and set them on the road to recovery but if they don’t, it will be very serious. It is easy to overlook how vulnerable these poor countries south of the Sahara are to changes in climate and how we cannot take well established historical weather patterns for granted.

On the project front we are seeking to repeat the successful programme we implemented at Kamuli in a much poorer setting in Eastern Uganda. We hope to refurbish the maternity ward at Freda Carr Ngora Hospital (pictured above) and send a Vocational Training Team to boost education at the nurse training school, all with the help of a global grant from Rotary. We are receiving strong support from the Rotary Club of Kampala Central and the Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau.

One of the great joys of coming to Uganda is the opportunity to meet the most incredible people. I have previously mentioned the Kamuli anaesthetic officer who works literally 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and Dr Maura Lynch of Kitovu, a nun and surgeon who celebrates 50 years in Africa this year. Both of these are still working in their 70’s. On this trip I met an 80 yr old ophthalmologist who has been 52 yrs in Africa, still works full time and spends two weeks each month travelling all over Uganda taking his surgical skills to remote communities. His name is Keith Waddell of Ruharo hospital and he is photographed with his team on an outreach journey. Between them, these three remarkable people have 151 years of service. I feel I live an incredibly lazy and self indulgent existence!