Story and Photos by Damalie Hirwa
MAF flies a team to a medical camp in Northern Uganda where over 90% of patients are treated for malaria
The vast majority of the 250 people that sought medical assistance at a medical camp in Lira district in Uganda tested positive for malaria. The high malaria prevalence in that part of the country is mostly attributed to stagnant water, as a big chunk of land is covered by swamps.
Dr Andy Beardsley is one of a team of 5 from the US that MAF flew to Lira in early December 2022. The team was in Alaki village to conduct a medical camp and offer free health services to the community, most of whom could not afford to pay for health services. “90% of the people we have seen have tested positive for malaria. We have given them Coartem drugs and the social workers are sensitising them on ways to prevent malaria,” he said. Dickens Onyant, the director of Path International Ministries in Uganda, says there’s an increase in the number of orphans in Lira due to malaria deaths.
“Malaria is a very big problem here. It is responsible for most of the deaths of children, mothers, older people, and rarely the middle aged. As a leader, I am invited to attend funerals, and on average, I attend three burials a week whose deaths came from a malaria attack,” Dickens said.
According to a July 2022 report by Uganda Radio Network, Alik Health Center in Erute South sees 1,650 malaria cases in a month, and records between 66 to 70 cases per week.
Uganda had the third highest global burden of malaria cases and deaths in the year 2020. Unfortunately, most of the people affected by malaria do not have resources to seek proper medical treatment. Many of them resort to local herbs that present some relief but allow the parasite to grow silently.
Even though Dr Andy is a paediatrician, the need at the medical camp was so great that he had to see adults as well. This is the second time he is visiting Uganda, and the great need in these communities keeps him coming back again and again. “I love to come to the people here because they are lovely and welcoming, but they also have so much need. Coming here also helps me learn about the future needs of the people,” he said. Dr Andy together with his team were able to travel to Lira in less than an hour, when they flew with MAF. A big chunk of the road from Uganda’s capital, Kampala to Lira is covered by potholes, making road travel unsafe and very long, slightly below six hours.
“MAF made it very easy for us to check into Lira. The flight was smooth and friendly and saved us a lot of time in travel,” Dr Andy Beardsley said. Under PATH Ministries International, a team from the US travel to Uganda every year, to offer support to orphaned children, and communities that lack key resources. The team, with support from social workers and local medical personnel, hold medical camps in selected villages, where most residents can’t afford basic medical treatment.