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Four Welsh charities win £250,000 grant to improve healthcare in Uganda

Thursday, 25 October 2012
Funding announced as Desmond Tutu meets PONT
A UNIQUE consortium of four Welsh health links has been created to help improve the health of people living in Uganda.
PONT – Partnerships Overseas Networking Trust – Vale for Africa, Care for Uganda and the Gulu Mission Initiative have been awarded £250,000 by the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET) to train hundreds of community-based volunteer health workers.
The four charities will work in four districts of the country – Mbale, Tororo, Luwero and Gulu – over the next three years to develop primary care and ensure sick and injured patients, including pregnant women with complications, get speedy access to hospital.
The consortium, known as the Integrated Primary Care Network, is the only one of its kind in Wales and could serve as a model for future health links between the nation and African countries.
The THET funding announcement coincides with a visit by the former Archbishop of Cape Town and social rights activist Desmond Tutu to the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, in Llantrisant, today (October 23) to learn more about PONT’s work in Mbale.
DSCF1424.JPGThis is what he said at the end of his visit to RGH to learn more about PONT's work on Thursday:
"Each time I go to hospital I think about how I fell head over heels in love with my nurse. I was in hospital for 20 months and I still recall her. I don'( think she knew her powers over me because every time she touched me, my heart went wayyyyyyyy.
"On behalf of all the wonderful people that you've helped and are helping in Uganda, Lesotho and other places, a very very big thank you.
"Thank you for your caring and your love.
"I haven't actually commended the First Minister for your Wales for Africa programme - I think it's fantastic and it's helping those parts of the world try and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
"Whether you do that or not, what's important is the child who's alive in Uganda who almost certainly wouldn't be if your motorbike ambulance wasn't around to help.
"You know we have the hotline to heaven and I've just received a call from headquarters to say you don't know how thrilled God is with you.
"You've put a smile on God's face."
Dr Geoff Lloyd, founder of PONT, which links Rhondda Cynon Taf and Mbale, said: “This new funding will make a massive impact on the number of children and mothers who die in Africa by encouraging the development of clusters of linking organisations within Wales.
“There are now many doctors, nurses and other health workers across Wales who are willing to give their time and energy to Africa, if only they feel they can make a difference.
“This funding empowers them to make that difference, by allowing them to develop integrated healthcare systems of the sort we take for granted in our own country.”
Over the next 30 months, the four charities will train more than 700 volunteers and equip them with mobile phones allowing them to call an emergency motorbike ambulance to transport the sickest people to hospital.
The grant will also provide three motorbike ambulances for the Tororo, Luwero and Gulu regions.
Similar schemes in the Mbale region, developed and run by PONT, have saved countless lives and ensure patients, including pregnant women, can be quickly identified and transported large distances for hospital care.
The ambitious project will help to develop community-based healthcare in Uganda. Although the country has a network of hospitals and health centres, infant and maternal mortality rates remain stubbornly high because there is no primary care available in local villages.
This means patients are often left to deteriorate to the point where their condition becomes life-threatening before help is sought. The lack of transport to the nearest clinic or hospital means many patients die en route or shortly after arriving.
The collaboration will also have significant benefits for Wales by giving NHS staff and other public sector workers valuable experience working in Africa and helping to set and develop these projects.
THET says such links benefit UK organisations because they provide an opportunity to develop staff; gives them ideas for service improvements and exposes them to international health issues. These links are also an opportunity for both organisations – in the UK and Africa – to undertake joint research.
The THET funding will see PONT work with three other Welsh link organisations who are already working in Tororo, Luwero and Gulu.
The Neath Port Talbot-Luwero link Care for Uganda was set up in 2001 and has built a health centre and orphanage and community toilets. The link has also sponsored almost 300 children in the region, distributed mosquito nets and is developing projects to address maternal mortality.
The Reverend Andy Pilcher, founder of Care for Uganda, said: “This money will allow many village health teams to be trained in Uganda, which will have an immediate impact for literally thousands of people, potentially preventing many deaths.
“Working collaboratively with other links enables best practice to be shared, so Care for Uganda is delighted to be involved.”
The Gulu Mission Initiative (GMI) started in 2007 and has largely been concerned with supporting a primary school, establishing a fresh water supply and improving sanitation and working with girls at a school for former child soldiers.
Gulu was the heartland of the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by war criminal Joseph Kony who kidnapped and recruited up to 25,000 child soldiers over a 20-year period of terror and violence in Uganda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in what is Africa’s longest-running war.
Elizabeth Lewis, a GMI trustee, said: “Gulu Mission Initiative is excited about the consortium bid and we feel privileged to be working with other organisations in order to provide health care workers across Uganda.  
“Some of the local villages in Gulu will really benefit from this funding as they are remote from the main town and do not have access to the same healthcare as others.”
The third link – Vale for Africa – has been working in Tororo since 2010 to improve eye health, library provision and education. It has signed a series of memoranda of understanding with Tororo regional hospital and the Benedictine eye hospital. It was founded by Vale of Glamorgan AM Jane Hutt.
uganda2.jpgGwaragwara Health Centre, in Tororo district
Professor Steve Tomlinson, chairman of Vale for Africa, said: “This wonderful project is about responding to local healthcare need in Uganda with local solutions by providing education and training for local people.
“The aim is sustainable long-term improvement in health for those people in those communities who need it most by developing primary care.”
Dr Maureen Owor, a trustee of Vale for Africa and its Ugandan partner organisation Tororo Community Initiated Development Association, said: “The collaborative approach is of mutual benefit for partners both in Tororo and Wales because the local communities are involved as core stakeholders in pursuing improved healthcare.
“The people of Wales share their knowledge and expertise on alternative methods of achieving sustainable primary health care. Equally, the people of Tororo participate in the improvement of health facilities and take greater responsibility for reducing social disparities in local health services.”
uganda1.jpgA PONT motorbike ambulance in use in Mbale, Uganda
The THET-funded work will develop 30 village health teams in each of the four areas, including Mbale. In total 360 community health promoters, 360 traditional birth referral attendants and 120 operational level health workers, who can diagnose patients and are responsible for calling for the motorbike ambulances, will be trained.
With an average of 700 people living in each village – most of them rural subsistence farmers who do not have the money to pay for medical services or transport to hospital – it is estimated 84,000 people in the four regions will have better access to healthcare as a result of the three-year project.
The funding is part of the Department for International Development’s Health Partnership Scheme. Lynne Featherstone, the  International Development Minister, said: “We are delighted to support the Health Partnership Scheme. Through the scheme, British medical expertise is used to help give developing countries the vital skills needed to improve the health of some of the world’s poorest people.
“The programme will train 13,000 overseas healthcare workers dealing with issues from trauma care to maternal health. British nurses, midwives and medical teams are amongst the best in the world and they will help make a real difference in some of the poorest parts of the world.”
Notes to Editors
ukaid.jpgThe Health Partnership Scheme is funded by DFID (£20m from the existing aid budget over four years). It is managed by the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET). For more information visit www.thet.org/hps
thet.jpgThe Tropical Health & Education Trust is a specialist global health organisation that educates, trains and supports health workers through partnerships, strengthening health systems and enabling people in low and middle income countries to access essential healthcare. More information is available at www.thet.org
logo.jpgFor more information contact Madeleine Brindley, head of communications at Cwm Taf Health Board, on 01443 744 812 or email madeleine.brindley@wales.nhs.uk
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