Report - The problem Acheru now has
|We have a
problem. The Acheru staff now encounter more disabled children
than we can deal with, despite being very selective about the
conditions we treat.
added a hostel at Acheru to accommodate more patients and
relatives, significantly increasing our capacity with potential
for 32 surgical inpatients. This means Acheru is much bigger
than we originally envisaged. Any further expansion would, I
think, be unwise and create too many problems for the future,
not just financial but increasing the burden on staff and
management and affecting the family atmosphere of
Acheru which is so important to us. And we cant do
everybodys work for them. Where are the others who talk so
much about treating disabled children?
|We provided the
additional beds at Acheru so that more children could be brought
from the north. We started with a team from Acheru going to the
clinic at Minakulu, south of Gulu, every two months and bringing
back children needing surgery. The next step was recruiting and
placing permanent staff there to conduct outpatient clinics and
community work, referring surgical patients to Acheru or having
simpler surgery carried out locally. We then saw the problems
caused by the distances some people had to travel to get to
Minakulu, so the next step was to start rural clinics in more
remote areas doing this in conjunction with government
centres so that adequate preparations could be made in each
received details of the first visit to two of these clinics in
July. Our Minakulu staff, with Sam Mutumba and a number of
visitors from other organisations, went first to Zambia Health
Centre, south west of Gulu in Oyam District, the community
having been told to expect them. Over 30 people were already
waiting; osteomyelitis, club feet, post injection paralysis,
burns contractures, cleft lips, and other deformities. 35
patients were registered, 10 of which needed surgery.
Osteomyelitis is usually given priority, patients perhaps having
bones sticking out. It wasnt easy though; one girl in
urgent need of help had been brought by her sister, but we need
to find her parents to get their permission for surgery.
Treatment of some club foot patients started right away with
plaster of Paris, which can be changed on the next visit after
|They went next
day to Otwal health centre, seeing similar conditions there with
some osteo cases requiring immediate surgery. They were sent by
public transport to Kampala and on to Kabembe. Another 12 of
those registered needed surgery, but we simply cant take
them at present.
|The outcome of
two days clinics was that only the most urgent cases went to
Acheru; 20 had to be left, their conditions possibly worsening
and causing further suffering. This in addition to other
children seen at Minakulu which Acheru couldnt take in.
This is distressing for the staff who are praying for a
solution. They have gone there to help children; their presence
alone holds out hope to children and families, and they have to
be told were unable to help, they will have to wait.
|As a matter of
urgency we are now discussing all possible options with the
Acheru staff to see what we can do ourselves or in conjunction
with others. It makes me think back to when we started Cherub,
and were strongly advised by people there not to bother, as
there was no need for our services. Even in areas with
relatively well developed services weve encountered
significant gaps, but in the north its so much worse.
There are various hospitals and clinics, and we remain focused
on only dealing with those children that they arent
equipped to deal with.
our problem, and its urgent, so weve a lot to think
about. Those clinics were our first steps into that wider area,
and we dont know if what weve seen is a backlog of
neglected cases that can be cleared up in a few months or years,
or if its the proverbial tip of the iceberg, and we will
keep uncovering a bigger problem. If nothing else, weve
already made others aware of the problem, so there may be
potential to develop partnerships. But can we take any more
children into Acheru? Find other hospitals who can carry out
surgery? Provide an inpatient facility at Minakulu? We must also
step up community work, not just to find disabled children, but
to help prevent conditions like osteomyelitis.
|Lots to think
and pray about, but look back to what we started from such a
short time ago and how many have already been helped.