Charity Healthcare Partnerships: A Success Story in Uganda

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In relation to charity, Charles Caleb Colton-a great scholar of Society said 'Did universal charity prevail, earth would be a heaven, and hell a fable". In practical terms, those with golden hearts that give to the needy without hesitation believe in a doctrine that Charity sees the need, not the cause! And thus, giving back to society without is in fact vague and misty in nature in this modern, capitalist and very hostile world driven by the doctrine of survival of the fittest. There's so much that we procure from society. There are so many strata of people who make up the whole population of a nation. But they are different from each other. Some are affluent and some are mere stragglers of survival. In many countries, there are masses who don't even have excess to basic day-to-day requirements, food, clothing, shelter, water, land and healthcare etc. There are also people who have so much in excess, that the amounts if distributed, would solve many problems plaguing most areas around the world. This is the only reason we celebrate charity and its associated social responsibilities.

To explain a success story in this endeavor, a case of helping vulnerable children in Uganda in the health arena. The majority of Uganda's population lacks timely access to safe, affordable surgical services and those who have access to them may not afford to pay for them as they are not economically or financially empowered. Enormous disparities in access exist between high-and low-income areas, and between rural and urban areas with regional and sub-national disparities causing additional avertable morbidity and mortality especially for the less-fortunate children from poor families. This is in part due to a severe shortage of surgeons, anesthetists, and obstetricians in Uganda, resulting in an estimated deficit of at least 23,000 surgeons, obstetricians, and anesthesiologists by 2030. Humanity Direct, a UK-based charity have been instrumental in alleviating this deficit by contributing to the treatment of surgical diseases which represent 30% of the Uganda burden of disease, by offering free life-changing surgery to the most needy children. Humanity Direct is a team of well-wishers led by three golden-hearted volunteers based in Norway and the United Kingdom - Mr.Nick Swift, Mrs.Catrina Swift and Marc Shalam - by running multiple healthcare projects and charities in many developing countries in Africa, including Uganda, with a mission of providing an opportunity, a helping hand, for those who have little by providing free medical and surgical services. The development goal is to transform the lives of Vulnerable Children for Fulfillment of their Destiny.

The team mobilizes donations to support those who are different enough to make a difference. Humanity Direct and its key partners are measurably improving the lives of children. But the true measure of effectiveness is not in what the charity does, but what they become - the children and their families are able to resume their lives as a result (after the life-changing surgery or after rectifying vision problems). Apart from the donations received directly from donors, they also organise events like XNRG Extreme Energy Ultra marathons with a vision to help people challenge themselves and break through their mental and physical barriers, whilst providing peace of mind with expertly run events, going the extra mile for every competitor. Other challenges aimed at fundraising for the needy children include cycling and swimming.

In Uganda, there is a high burden of infant congenital anomalies, combined with higher mortality rates of both untreated disease and surgical procedures due to lack of money to pay for such treatment. The partnership between Humanity Direct has enabled primarily specialized procedures appropriate for the children in need enabling the optimization of surgical workforce and improving access to surgical services by children from poor families especially those from rural areas. Provision of surgical care is essential to health care for those children that present health conditions that call for surgery, and due to this fact Platinum Hospital engages in a corporate social responsibility to Ugandan children to subsidize the cost of surgeries in order for Humanity Direct to pay for the children's treatment at a discount.

Humanity Direct has increasingly intervened to offer a helping hand to redeem the health and medical care for children, working with many Non-governmental organizations and health establishments in Tanzania, Somaliland to save the lives of many disadvantaged children from poor families - enabling them to access free medical services and empowering them to participate and get involved in managing sustainable primary health care at the community level.

Humanity Direct has for the last three years been in partnership with Platinum Hospital, an intervention to offer a helping hand to redeem the health and save the lives of many disadvantaged children from poor families in Uganda. Humanity Direct, working with Global Healthcare and Education Initiative (GHEI-Uganda) has done a lot in reducing child mortality among the poor or disadvantaged communities, enabling them to access free medical services mainly offering free surgery to the children, eye screening, offering free specs to those with vision problems and empowering them to participate and get involved in managing sustainable primary health care at the community level. Mr. Kasozi Dickson, the coordinator of Humanity Direct health programs for vulnerable children in Uganda reveals that "too many children suffer or die from a lack of medical care simply because their families cannot afford the cost of treatment they need. We are changing that by enabling donors to directly fund life changing surgery/operations and lifesaving treatment for the most vulnerable children". GHEI Volunteers are working in partnership with Humanity Direct to mobilise donors, and Platinum Hospital which provide a team of medical professionals and specialists especially surgeons to bail out children from very poor families who cannot afford even the very basic medicine, and so being able to afford surgery is out of the question and not within arm's reach. Many delay seeking medical care until the conditions worsen or get into debt they can never repay. Humanity Direct is running multiple healthcare projects and charities in many developing countries in Africa, including Uganda, with a mission of providing an opportunity, a helping hand, for those who have little or nothing to live by providing free medical and surgical services.

According to Mr. Kasozi Dickson, many children from poor families are usually referred to Humanity Direct from Mulago Hospital and other health facilities because they do not have the financial muscle to pay for their medical bills, especially when it requires surgery. He says "We have patients who need surgical operations from neurosurgery, hernia, Colostomy, tumors, eye surgeries, circumcision to skin grafts with an average cost of £300. Doctors put forward child patients on the Humanity Direct website if they fulfill two criteria, namely - that the surgical operation will dramatically improve the patient's life and they cannot afford it themselves due to their vulnerable economic conditions. All costs and overheads through Humanity Direct are funded privately, enabling 100% of the goal-directed donation to focus on funding the surgical operation of a vulnerable child, medical supplies, hospital stay and after care of the patient. Working with Platinum Hospital, over 3700 surgical operations for children have been carried out". The same applies to all donations on the eyes program.

Many school-going children in Uganda have their vision impaired simply because they do not have access to an eye examination and a pair of glasses. Humanity Direct has for the last two years partnered with Watford opticians 'Glasses on Spec' in a joint initiative to provide children in Uganda with eye tests and glasses as a remedy to address the sight challenges for the school-going children with the target of preventing blindness and impaired vision due to uncorrected refractive error by supporting programs that offer not only eye exams and glasses in areas with little or no access to them, but that establish the infrastructure and human resources required for sustainable, quality vision care.

Glasses on Spec and Mr. William Luff produce and offer the charity a variety of pairs of spectacles for the children, completely free of charge. Humanity Direct with its partners has carried out thousands of eye examinations among school-going children, given them glasses free of charge with the aim of effectively supporting or changing their academic life and refer the children with complex eye problems for surgical operations and eye treatment at Platinum Hospital that is also totally free to prevent blindness and restore sight. This joint initiative to provide free eye tests and glasses as a remedy to address the sight challenges for the school-going children has seen over 5500 needy children benefiting from the program, getting free eye glasses. Yet over 65,000 children have had their eyes tested. As part of a drive to check the optimal vision school children in the country, the charity arranges for thousands of pupils to have sight tests at their school premises, with the help of an ophthalmologist and two nurses from Platinum Hospital, Kampala.

DR. Dan Namuguzi of Platinum Hospital says ''This kind of engagement has enabled the creation of effective partnerships within communities where we go for outreaches for screening and locating the needy children with problems that require surgery or when we visit rural community schools for eye screening. These community outreaches also include evaluating the interventions and the partnership itself in that the medical team from Platinum Hospital and Humanity Direct volunteers move together to different areas, using this process and outcome, we evaluate the effectiveness of the kind of interventions we can go as a hospital in corporate social responsibility viz-a-viz the kind of charity we can jointly offer with Humanity Direct. Additionally, as a hospital and charity organization, we are beginning to see the fruits of this kind of engagement and the effectiveness of our partnership based on the number of children with health complication we have so far operated on and the high number of vulnerable school-going children with vision problems that have been bailed out through surgical operations and giving out free specs to them including those in hard to reach areas''.

As partners who came together to address an identified priority health need of the community, there are goals and objectives of the partnership we agreed upon and understood by all parties - this has kept us going on without misunderstandings and collision. With simple formal structures of engagements, we developed the most appropriate governance and organization structure, with all partners understanding their distinct role in the collaborative approach to addressing the children's most pressing health needs.

To ensure sustainability we had to indigenize, for effective community mobilization and outreach, we are working with Global Healthcare and Education Initiative (GHEI-Uganda). GHEI-Uganda helps us to mobilize children from poor and vulnerable families that can benefit from the health program. It mobilizes rural schools to allow the team from Humanity Direct and Platinum Hospital carry out eye screening and education of the children about their health. The key to sustainability is education. Our health care providers usually present themselves as instructors offering technical expertise for a long-term integrated plan rather than simply as short-term visiting physicians. Together we continue to monitor and evaluate the program's efficacy, collecting data and reassessing resources on an ongoing basis to maximize the operation's effectiveness as well as creating a sense of local ownership by teaching beneficiaries on how the program works.

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