The hospital in Uganda, which has restored the health and dignity of 81 excluded children


Acceptance of the Pediatric Surgical Center in Entebbe

Acceptance of the Pediatric Surgical Center in Entebbe – Photo Liverani (with permission from families and doctors)

Here in Uganda they call them the “dirty children”, ie dirty children. No one wants them in class. Nobody wants to play with it. And they spend their childhood alone. They are children born with intestinal diseases, which in developed countries can be easily solved in the very first months of life. In Africa, no. The lucky ones manage to have life-saving operations performed, which, however, often sentence them to a lonely, isolated, ghettoized life. Children with anorectal malformations who – simply – can not go to the toilet like everyone else because their intestines have no way out. The opening when they are just born, of an opening on the stomach it allows survival but prevents social life: wrapped with rags or even plastic bags, they can not live with others because they are “the children who stink”, marked by a strong social stigma. Until a year ago. Because the pediatric surgical hospital built by Emergency in Entebbe is facing this plague. And radically change their lives.

These are the stories of Jauza, Moses, Clever, Prisca, Abdul and many others children aged 4 to 11 years or even older returned to a true, full and peaceful life of passionate and competent doctors and nurses – Ugandan and international – animating the beautiful structure overlooking Lake Victoria, built on the project given by Renzo Piano to his friend Gino Strada.

Small patients at the Emergency Hospital

Small patients in the emergency hospital – Photo Liverani (with permission from families and doctors)

People like Dr. Andrea Franchellawho, along with his colleagues, has operated on many in the first year of life of this hospital. Pediatric surgeon from Sant’Anna Hospital in Ferrara, retired since 2018, now he is chief physician at this facility. Sitting on a hospital sofa, he catches his breath after a complex operation to save a little girl from limited peritonitis. Fault in Hirschsprung’s pathology, known in Italian as mega-colon. After the anorectal malformations, it is the most common pathology here: the last part of the intestine does not have the nerve cells that allow contractions, the stool accumulates more and more and expands it enormously. With increasing risks.

Small patients at the Emergency Hospital

Small patients in the emergency hospital – Photo Liverani (with permission from families and doctors)

“To be honest – says Dr. Franchella – I started early, already in the 80s, and started operating in developing countries on a regular basis. I started on a Franciscan mission in Guatemala. And when I found out about this new pediatric surgical hospital, I did not think twice. In the first year of operation, we have already operated on 62 children to restore functionality prevented by the anorectal malformation, closure of the “stoma” on the abdomen, reconstruction of the natural opening and reconnection of the intestine. Plus another 19 mega-colon surgeries. that in West Prenatal diagnostics helps eliminate fetuses with these abnormalities before birth.

Small patients at the Emergency Hospital

Small patients in the emergency hospital – Photo Liverani (with permission from families and doctors)

The children who arrive at the Emergency Hospital here in Entebbe often have stories that are hard to believe. Like Jauza at 9, who had a “fecal lobe” 25 inches long and 14 inches wide in her swollen abdomen. Or like Moses at 6, small but raised like a woman in the ninth month. “Many of these children start here before surgery says the Genoese nurse Eleonora Dotti – to play for the first time with their peers who are in the same state as themselves. Once they have undergone surgery, they do an exceptional thing: they begin a normal life. Even just going to school is a revolution for them. “The effort has a double effect: Solving the health problem and at the same time erasing the social stigma.

The hospital is already a point of reference, not just nationally. There are parents who travel hundreds of miles to give their unfortunate children a chance. Like William at 49 and six children, who in November watched the emergency hospital on television and took a 9-hour bus ride from Fort Portal, a village on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her fifth son, Clever, 11, had already been operated on, without success, at Kampala’s Mulago Hospital. A public facility, but which – as is the norm here – charges for intervention: Clevers alone cost $ 500, a huge amount for William.

Thanks to the care at the hospital in Entebbe, Clever is now able to handle his problem well, even though he is one of the very few here who will not be able to solve it completely. But he does one thing he has never done before: go to school. Also thanks to the second miracle in the family: father William was employed at the emergency hospital as a cleaning assistant, he sends money home and can pay school fees. School is compulsory e public, such as Mulago Hospital, but even here you have to pay non-symbolic fees.

Stories that confirm the philosophy behind the humanitarian organization that Gino Strada wanted to provide excellent medicine to those in need, because the right to health, if it does not exist even for the poorest, is a privilege. Thanks to a high-level organization and medical staff working to accomplish a mission. Dr. Franchella smiles: “I am more and more convinced that it is more what I receive than what I give”.

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