Merry Christmas from REACH Bwindi!

We hope this update finds you well and enjoying some time of rest and relaxation over the holidays. This Christmas as we look back on the last few years during this challenging time, we are so proud of all Bwindi Community Hospital has done despite the pandemic. So it is a joy to be able to share their achievements – many of which were made possible by your generous donations. A total of £55,454 was raised from April 2020 to April 2021. Grants from this largely supported salaries in the paediatric and community departments.

This short update gives you a glimpse into some of their amazing work.

As the pandemic unfolded in 2020, the income for Bwindi Community Hospital was hit from all angles: nursing students were forced to return home, patients could not come to the Hospital, and tourism collapsed. Although some staff at BCH may have been privately worried by the virus and implications for their own families, they continued in solidarity, even opting to take a significant cut in their own salaries – and this still stands today. And Bwindi Community Hospital came into its own, living up to the ‘Community’ in its name. Thus, when most patients couldn’t come to the Hospital, the staff reached even more people in their own homes. They delivered medicines, such as for HIV, provided mosquito nets to every expectant mother and those who had had malaria at BCH, and helped to prevent malnutrition. At the same time, TB treatment and completion rates were 100%, partly due to a new text messaging system connecting community village health teams.

Michael, a Community Nurse who delivers care daily to remote villages by motorbike

And now we see the rewards of this primary care approach: all those testing positive for HIV were enrolled on treatment with viral suppression standing at 94.6%; prevention of mother-to-child transmission was 99.6%; admissions with malaria at BCH markedly reduced, and prevalence of severe malnutrition in children was less than 1%, in 2020-21. This really is remarkable, given ten years ago the prevalence of malnutrition was over 10% – and this in the context of almost 1 in 3 Ugandan children being stunted (https://www.unicef.org/uganda/what-we-do/nutrition).

Peace, a champion of HIV testing and treatment for BCH as well as grateful service user!

Meanwhile, in the hospital, preventative services continued too; outpatients saw over 17,000 (and it was double this before the pandemic). In addition a more confidential route continued for younger patients – see the photo of Bakesiga standing proudly by the sign for the Youth Friendly Services clinic she helps to run: a service you have also supported!

There were also 1129 deliveries with 94.4% live discharges (compared with 85% the previous year). Below is photo of their excellent neonatal care within the paediatric department you have also helped to support.

At the same time, Covid-19 hit. Whilst neighbouring facilities refused patients, BCH welcomed them all; 135 were diagnosed in total. Most were managed at home in the community, where not one was lost. Fifty were admitted to BCH; six died despite best treatment. Most patients who were admitted required oxygen therapy. This was a major undertaking and expense for the hospital. The oxygen cylinders had to be refilled from Kabale, 110km away through the Impenetrable Forest on seriously challenging roads (so challenging in fact, Top Gear previously drove them during their East Africa tour – see photo!).

Between the time for travelling and refilling, the driver was regularly putting in 14 hour days – and the vehicle would often have to turn around and set off once again with more empty cylinders. Now, with a third wave around the corner, all BCH want for Christmas is a stable supply of power – and oxygen! And, they are continuing to lead the local vaccination programme, free of charge.

We are so grateful for all you have given and hope that you can see, that your support has made a real impact. The team in REACH Bwindi have been glad to part of the story too, supporting this organisation that does so much with so little (around a million pounds a year – similar to just one General Practice in the UK!). We are also proud that without overheads, we have been able to ensure that all your donations have reached exactly where they were meant to go. As Bwindi Community Hospital and Uganda Nursing School Bwindi move closer towards being self-sustainable for the future, your generous support is still very much needed to help achieve this goal. We leave the last word of thanks to Barnabas in BCH – please click this link.

A very Merry Christmas and healthy, happy New Year to you all, from the REACH Bwindi team!

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