Circular - September 2013
In the last website update I referred to a problem – well it’s been resolved for now. But I’m afraid no sooner has one problem been dealt with than another one appears.
First, the earlier problem. Our difficulty was the number of children coming to clinics in the north who were in urgent need of surgery. Acheru was taking as many as possible, but we couldn’t take them all. We refer our surgical cases to CoRSU for orthopaedic operations or plastic surgery, and as they also have rehab facilities we wondered if we could send children direct to them when Acheru is full. Although CoRSU is a charity and their charges are heavily subsidised, we still have to pay. With recent rising numbers in Acheru, and a limited budget, we were concerned about the implications of this. We explained our position to CoRSU; neither of us wanted to see children turned away so they have offered us significantly reduced charges for some things. Treatment for cleft lip and palate was already free.
This is an encouraging development in our relationship with CoRSU. We depend on them for surgery but they also depend on us to find children and bring them in. They have a big investment in their hospital and want to see it used to maximum effect and we all want to see children from the north, an area neglected for so long, receive the care they need.
One of our committee members, Steven Gregg, was at Acheru with his family in August and wrote: “Even though I know the work that is carried out here and have seen the pictures, nothing can prepare you for seeing it at first hand, as the nurses removed the dressings on each child to reveal what can only be described as horrendous injuries and wounds. It was almost beyond what I was able to watch. When I look at Acheru I see happy children on crutches or wheelchairs playing games, and it gave me a false sense that they are like other children playing. It is only when you see their wounds and hear their stories that you start to understand the immense suffering and pain they experience.”
We don’t yet know the full implications of our new arrangement with CoRSU. I’ve told all at Acheru that no child is to be turned away because of cost; if Acheru can’t take them, they can be brought to CoRSU. Even with the CoRSU concessions, our costs will rise. Transport alone will be costly because of the distances. But you as donors have given us money to treat these children, and that’s what we will do. We can evaluate it all in a few months, but we have no doubt this is what needs to be done in the interests of the children.
Now to the other problem I mentioned. The Acheru staff see children at their clinics, and assess their suitability for treatment. However, it’s not as simple as loading them up and taking them to Acheru or CoRSU. For a start, each child needs an attendant and it’s not always easy for someone to come with them. They might be away from home for a long time and many people in the north, on the other side of the Nile, can be apprehensive about travelling so far from home to an ‘alien’ environment. The staff do everything possible to deal with this; including if necessary trying to make alternative arrangements for the child’s care, perhaps with another patient’s relative ‘adopting’ them. We also need parental permission and that can be very difficult given attitudes to disability. Some may be afraid that it will cost them money – and why spend anything on a ‘useless’ child? Others question our motives for taking the child. Another problem, thankfully not encountered often, arose recently when Sam followed up on a disabled girl who lived with her grandmother. The old woman wanted us to give her money! Possibly opportunism, possibly because a disabled child can earn money from begging and treatment would put an end to that. Either way, it’s an indication of what they think of the child.
It’s still very early days for the work in the north. I’ve told you some of the problems but I don’t want to be too negative as a lot of progress has already been made with many children already taken for treatment – and each child who returns home becomes an ambassador for Acheru.
Thank you for the continuing prayers and support which make this possible.
Brian Dorman

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