My recent visit to Uganda

I went to Uganda in February and visited both the projects "Improving Chances" is supporting.

At Rwbaale I was shown round the first building that is up and running. It is very impressive. Though small it is clean and bright, and already helping to meet the needs of the local mothers and children. Here antenatal classes are given, simple blood tests can be carried out and medical management of pregnancy and labour can be provided. Children can also be admitted for treatment of e.g. common killers such as malaria .While I was thereI was introduced to members of the local health committee: local villagers who are themselves helping to develop this facility and encouraging others to make best use of it. Their enthusiasm is infectious.

Sister Ferdiana , who is leading the project, has ambitious plans for the site for the future, including the establishment of surgical facilities. However progress is slow. She showed me the foundations of the next block to be built, construction having ceased for the time being because of lack of money. This building will provide more space for purpose built maternity wards and delivery suites. I was impressed with the care that has gone into the planning process, particularly in relation to such simple, but immensely important, things as waste disposal. And I was glad to see that the nurses now live on site in simple purpose built accommodation .

As well as Rwbaale, of course, we also spent time at The Good Shepherd School. I went with my daughter, another doctor, and we met up with a health visitor from Manchester there. There are now just over 100 children in the school and between us we were able to check the children’s general health, screen them for significant anaemia and treat them with medication for parasitic infections common in the area. The school is a model of child centred education in a part of the world where class sizes can easily be 90 or more to one teacher. Most of the children have relatively mild learning difficulties, but in classes of that size this becomes a major handicap. And a significant minority of the children in the school have much more severe problems including three children with profound hearing impairment. It is heartening to watch the children playing, as even the most severely disabled are included and we saw no bullying or stigmatisation. Overall the children are happy and healthy, and they are certainly learning.

We talked at length with Sr Theresa about her plans for the future, and particularly her hopes that she will be able , in time, to reach out to the more severely disabled children in the villages around who cannot get to school. She has already done much to raise the profile of children with disability in this part of Uganda. I hope we can help her to do this.

We came back to the UK encouraged by what we had seen, and enthusiastic that these two projects are really worthwhile. They both have considerable local support and are being driven forward by the Ugandans themselves. The money raised by “Improving Chances” can only help to make them even better.