Catholic Hospitals Critical to Alleviating Health Problems in Uganda

But More Trained Staff Is Needed, Rimini “Meeting” Emphasizes

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RIMINI, AUG. 30, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The importance of the work of Catholic hospitals in Uganda, which is experiencing a critical health situation, was highlighted at the Meeting of Friendship Among Peoples.

Hunger, malnutrition, poverty and underdevelopment are the negative factors affecting Africa’s health situation. In Uganda, 150 children out of 1,000 die before the age of 5, and more than half of the hospital beds are occupied by AIDS patients.

Added to this is the lack of drugs and medical equipment, and of qualified human resources, the participants heard in during the session on “The Experience of Catholic Hospitals in Uganda.”

Given the above picture, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to Uganda, highlighted the work of Catholic health institutions and, especially that of the individuals who have carried it out, being a “tangible testimony of what charity, solidarity, and subsidiarity mean” in their response to suffering. “As Christ did, because this is the Church,” he said.

In fact, the missionaries who came to evangelize were the first to build hospitals in Uganda, “because this is part of their mission.”

“In face of very complicated situations, we also feel the temptation to say: ‘it’s the state’s responsibility,’ but I have seen a Church which has accepted the challenge, using intelligence and solidarity, the offspring of charity,” Archbishop Pierre continued.

“It is also our responsibility because Jesus cured the sick,” stressed Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu, which is among the northern districts of Uganda subjected since 1986 to the tortures and killings of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by visionary Joseph Kony in Sudan.

At present, the consequences of the LRA rebels are estimated to be 120,000 dead. Over 30,000 children have been kidnapped and reduced to slavery, including sexual, or recruited for the guerrilla force, and more than one million displaced civilians.

Today there are 27 functioning hospitals, 230 health centers, and 12 training schools in 19 Ugandan dioceses.

Daniele Giusti, Secretary of the Ugandan Catholic Medical Bureau, said that the first hospital and school of nursing in Nsamya were founded in 1903 by Mother Kevina.

Father Ambrosoli and Sir Albert Cook, a Protestant, founded the hospital in Kalongo, where there was only a day clinic established by Fr. Malandra. For his part, Bishop Mazzoldi, a Comboni missionary, founded and built the Matany hospital.

Participants in the meeting heard about the progress being made in the struggle against AIDS, where there has been a dramatic fall in infections caused by the virus thanks, especially, to a campaign encouraging sexual abstinence and couples’ fidelity.

Likewise, the use of a new anti-biotic and constant education in hygiene has reduced trachoma, which causes blindness, by 75 percent.

Participants also heard that the funding, activation of hygiene and health projects, and use of new drugs have favored the cure of sicknesses. However, the most decisive factor has been the decision of individuals to dedicate their lives and professionalism to the Ugandans.

Daniele Giusti contributed his testimony in this connection. He traveled to Uganda 26 years ago as a volunteer and became a missionary. Eventually he was director of a hospital center. “Our work in Uganda is like a boat that, in moments of calm, goes toward the storm,” he said.

“In this phase, we sail in difficult waters, but Jesus is traveling in this boat, and he already conquered the storm,” he concluded.

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