Circular - June 2012
Although it seems a very short time since we started Acheru, the unit is now established, working to capacity, and with a growing reputation. Our thoughts are increasingly turning to the north, and what we can do for disabled children there. We now have a patient/relative hostel at Acheru, which can accommodate another 12 children, and it’s our hope that most of these will be from the north. We want to reduce our surgical waiting list there, and also try to extend the area covered by the work.
The most recent clinic run to the north illustrates the problems we face there. The Acheru team went first to Minakulu, returning patients who had completed their treatment and looking at all the waiting children to assess and prioritise new cases. They then travelled on to Gulu to stay overnight before going out to Awach, north east of Gulu for another clinic. There was very heavy rain which made travel difficult – both for our staff, and for people trying to reach the clinic. It’s probable some didn’t get there. More children were assessed and, in combination with Minakulu, ten were prioritised for surgery. However, when it came time to go back to Acheru, again via Minakulu to pick up patients, only six turned up. The selected cases were serious, so that means four children who could have been helped will continue to suffer, with what consequences we can only imagine. This happens too often; the parents may be influenced by older relatives afraid of ‘new’ methods, or witch doctors may have exerted pressure. Or it may simply have been the fear of travelling so far to an unknown situation. Whatever the reasons, we want to do something about it.
We have been blessed with continuing generous support for Acheru, and the best way we can use donors’ money is to treat more children. We are having serious discussions about this, and had at one time thought of building our own clinic in the north. However, it’s a changing situation there so we are reluctant to think of permanent structures. We have good relations with a number of existing health centres there, where we run our clinics, so we are now looking at the possibility of placing a team of Acheru workers in the north to work from those centres. They could try to ensure that children don’t miss out on treatment at Acheru, but could also provide outpatient treatment enabling us to treat many more. If suitable outpatient treatment was available in the north, then children being treated in Acheru could potentially return home much earlier, freeing up bed space. We are looking at this with other agencies involved in work there in the hope that together we can provide a more effective service, and I hope to have more news on this soon.
The attached picture of a little girl with osteomyelitis illustrates one of the most common conditions we have to deal with. She is from the north, imagine what she was suffering and what might have happened if we hadn’t found her.
Some friends want to raise money for Africare, and are planning a special evening in Belfast City Hall on 15th September, with varied music and a good meal. Further details will be put on our website when available.
Thank you to all who support our work, I hope you are encouraged by all that is happening.
Brian Dorman

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