A Doctor's Side of the Story
Where to begin?
That was my thought as we arrived at the remote Rhino camp area of Northern Uganda in February of last year. I was traveling with GRI Medical Director Matt Nowland, and GRI in-country staff Bonny and Joshua. There had been a huge influx of South Sudanese refugees into Uganda in recent days. U.N. staff had organized a transit camp near the border, and for as far as the eye could see people sat in small groups, surrounded by their few belongings. Food, water and tarps for shelter were being provided, and the refugees were being encouraged to move into nearby brushy areas to build simple homes. A measles epidemic was ongoing, and malaria was rampant. How would their health needs be addressed?
By building upon what was already in place.
This was the strategy we settled upon. The Ugandan Ministry of Health had a simple rural health post located not far from the transit camp. There we met two over-worked Ugandan nurses and a couple of helpers. They had almost no supplies or equipment, and were chronically low (or out) of medicines. We had brought a large stock of medicines and supplies with us, which attracted large crowds of patients. With permission from the Ministry of Health, we got to work at once.
I cannot say enough about the GRI Ugandan staff and their amazing ability to bring order out of chaos. As we faced one challenge after another the oft-heard words from our Ugandan teammates were "No problem!". Somehow during our week in Rhino camp a very large tent was erected and filled with beds allowing for inpatient care. Every day it seemed like we acquired another highly competent Ugandan health worker— by week's end our team consisted of two American docs, two Ugandan clinical officers (like nurse practitioners), and three Ugandan nurses—plus the staff of the health post.
I'm greatly encouraged by reports of the ongoing growth and success of the clinic. I can attest to the staggering health needs of the refugees, but also to the tremendous enthusiasm of the Ugandan staff as they worked to meet those needs.
I am grateful for the opportunity to support this work in Uganda financially and through prayer. Will you join me?
Steve Manock, MD
(Steve Manock works as family physician in rural Tennessee. He has served with GRI in Uganda and on the Thai-Burma border.)