TWO doctors from the Henley area have spoken of their joy at helping to fund a £150,000 refurbishment of a hospital in Africa.
The Kamuli Mission Hospital in eastern Uganda has had extensions to the maternity ward and operating theatre built following three years of fund-raising.
Much of the money was raised by the Kamuli Friends, led by Dr Philip Unwin, of the Hart Surgery in Henley, and retired Nettlebed GP Jim McWhirter with his own fund-raising team.
The appeal received an anonymous donation of £50,000 and the same amount from Rotary International as well as money from the Childbirth Injuries Trust, Rotary District 1090 and individuals.
The refurbishment work started in 2011 and was completed in November. The hospital, which is more than 100 years old, is run by an order of Franciscan nuns and many of them work as nurses at the hospital.
The hospital deals with 2,500 births a year and Caesarean sections are common as many women go into labour at home and have to travel for up to two days to get to the hospital.
Dr Unwin, 55, from Rotherfield Peppard, spends two weeks every year in Uganda and is often joined by his niece, Dr Alice Unwin. He last visited in November to officially open the new wards.
He said: “The refurbishment looks great but the hospital is still in desperate need of help and my aim is to rebuild the whole thing.
“We are currently spending another £150,000 on new accommodation for nurses and doctors who work at the hospital because the old blocks are appalling.
“Five buildings are going up. We hope to accommodate 25 nurses and their families, while there will be another block for doctors and guests.
“We are also hoping to rebuild the medical and paediatric wards. We have a lot of money still to raise but we are getting there slowly.”
Dr Unwin has persuaded members of his family to help when he goes to Uganda.
He said: “As well as Alice, my daughters Helen, Tiffany and Lily have all come out. I’m trying to get a few of the younger generation involved so that in the future they can take over. My aim is to not just rebuild the hospital but to turn it into a centre of medical excellence. The current facilities are awful but we want it to be a place where doctors from around the world will come for training. We are ambitious but excited.”
Dr McWhirter, a member of Henley Bridge Rotary Club, used to work at the hospital for several months in the year and first took Dr Unwin to Uganda six years ago.
He said: “For the first three years I was going over there to run the maternity ward at Kamuli for six weeks twice a year.
“I now work at more than 20 hospitals across Uganda but Philip and his niece regularly visit Kamuli.
“The hospital serves more than 750,000 people who haven’t got much else and are desperately poor. For every pound spent on medical care in Uganda we spend £1,000 in this country, which gives an idea of the disparity. Anything you can do is a massive boost to them.
“This has all been made possible by a strong combined effort from everyone. Strong financial and administrative support has been provided by the Rotary doctor bank in the UK and Medicaudit in Uganda.
“I am delighted to say that the work at Kamuli continues to forge ahead, led by Dr Unwin and his niece who both visit regularly.
“They are currently engaged in building new staff quarters for the nurses, guest accommodation and developing a comprehensive programme for volunteers and medical student electives.”
On February 28, a fund-raising dinner for the project will be held at Benson village hall with guest speaker Jeremy Paxman.
For more information, call Dr McWhirter on (01491) 641609 or visit www.hhu.org.uk
For more information about the Kamuli Friends or to make a donation, visit www.kamulifriends.com