A big thanks to you: 2022 in review!

As the year draws to a close, we hope that this blog is finding you well and looking forward to some rest over the festive season.  We are in our 5th year at REACH Bwindi – an endeavour made possible by you! – so we trust that you will enjoy this review of 2022: what has kept us busy and how your support has made a real difference to lives in Bwindi by Resourcing Effective Accessible Community Healthcare. 

First of all, huge thanks to everyone who has contributed to REACH Bwindi, including to the dedicated Sight4Bwindi team (you can find a fascinating account of their recent cataract camp, here).  Our fundraisers have been active around the world! Over the Easter weekend, a group of 30 adults and children walked miles around Sheffield, England.  In June, Kieran Dinwoodie walked 280km on the ‘Way of St James’ (Camino de Santiago) from Portugal to Spain, raising £2000.  In October’s marathon events, we cheered every one of the 92 miles completed between four amazing runners: Stuart D’Arch Smith and Caitlin Jones in the UK, and Mandy Ming pui Kan with Eddie Wai nok Chan in Hong Kong (particularly notable given the 30’C heat and high humidity!).  A seriously impressive effort from everyone.

What has Bwindi Community Hospital done with this support?!  Now in its 20th year, it seems a good time to reflect on the achievements which have been the result of their years of dedicated care and service. 

When BCH began as a clinic under a tree, child mortality (deaths by the 5th birthday) in the area was 163/1000 live births.  It has fallen year on year, and was just 22/1000 in 2022. Given that this is half of the national average, it suggests that Bwindi Community Hospital is delivering notable outcomes.  Malnutrition amongst the poorest children in the community, similarly, has reduced by 90%.  Malaria admissions in recent years have also reduced 90%.  These impressive achievements have been possible because Bwindi has a community focus, directing resources to the 101 villages in the area.  Daily outreaches by motorbike and by foot bring preventative healthcare messages, medications, mental healthcare and mosquito nets; family planning services empower women to space out their families (an essential strategy in reducing child and maternal mortality).  Community outreaches also support sanitation and clean water initiatives, and provide vaccinations – achieving better immunisation rates, in many cases, than in the UK.  In addition to these efforts to prevent illness, a new text message alert-system to direct care to sick community members has likely further contributed to the impressive fall in mortality rates. Further information can be found in their annual report, here.

Our £31,000 worth of grants to Bwindi Community Hospital in 2021-22 largely supported staff working in the community team and the paediatric department – and so played a part in the impressive results noted above. Supporting staff prevents loss of skill and experience: essential in this very remote, rural area. The pull of the city can be strong, often promising higher salaries and proximity to family.  The challenge of staff retention has been even greater since the COVID-19 pandemic, when streams of hospital funding were devastated.  This income, unfortunately, has not yet recovered, especially now with Ebola elsewhere in the country decimating tourist numbers again. This means that staff salaries which had to be reduced at the start of the pandemic, have not been able to be reinstated yet.  Retaining trusted staff enables them to stay part of the local community and to offer that high-quality care for which BCH is known. 

A further grant of £500 contributed to the training of a doctor who will serve at BCH.  In ensuring new doctors come to work and care for patients, BCH and REACH Bwindi together are investing in the future of good medical care at the hospital. 

In October, like last year, the hospital was able to provide a day of sports events and health education, which had a fantastic attendance.  This highlighted that BCH is so much more than a site for medical care; it is also the centre of life and activity for the whole community.  

Here at REACH Bwindi, we are small team of volunteers who all have other jobs.  As we look to the future we are hoping to widen our team. All interest is welcome! In particular, we are looking for someone to take over from our amazing accountant who continues to do a stalwart job but after 5 years wishes to hand on the baton! It is not a huge job but it is vital to the functioning of the charity.  Please email us at reachbwindi@gmail.com

This Christmas we are focusing on the work of the award-winning Waiting Mothers’ Hostel at Bwindi Community Hospital. Here, you can find stories directly from the women who are currently staying there.  Every pound raised, as ever, can be accounted for – and as you can see from the above, makes a massive difference.  Especially at this current time whilst the hospital gets back on its feet after the pandemic, all support is very much needed and will be well-utilised. 

Please support and share our appeal, found at https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/BwindiChristmasAppeal2022

Finally, we are currently running a pilot project where individuals and organisations will be able to sponsor a village to raise money for community services and receive regular updates, so watch this space! 

We could not be more proud of the work that the hospital does in preventing illness and for patients in desperate need, and, of your generosity in helping them to meet it.  As we look back, there is so much to be thankful for this Christmas.  Please continue to support their work, as we look forward to celebrating their 20 years in May 2023.  You make a real difference. Thank you.

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