The urgent need in Uganda for children’s medical care

This blog is part of an ongoing series to explain the need for specialized medical care in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. The CURE Children’s Hospital of Uganda operates out of Mbale, Uganda in Africa to provide medical care to vulnerable children that would otherwise not have access or be able to afford treatment.

Nestled in between coastal Kenya to the east and the rolling hills of the Congo to the west lies Uganda – a fertile heart to the continent of Africa. You don’t need to spend long there before you invariably hear someone recite how Uganda is the “Garden of Africa.” It’s a tagline well-earned since wild avocados, mangos, jackfruit, and bananas grow both abundantly and freely there.

This abundance provides only a veneer of prosperity to a country fighting to recover from decades of colonization and exploitation. Since 1993, Uganda has succeeded in reducing its national poverty rate (defined as earning less than roughly 1 USD a day) from 56% of its population to 21%. But with available government safety net programs using just 1% of Uganda’s GDP (the average for sub–Saharan African countries is 2.8% of the country’s GDP), the likelihood of families slipping back into poverty is unfortunately high.

Even if a family has successfully elevated themselves above the national poverty line of 1 USD/day, this is still not enough for most families to afford the proper care for a medical emergency, like a child being born with hydrocephalus, neural tube defects, spina bifida, and brain tumors.

CURE estimates there are 1.2 million children in Uganda who are needlessly suffering from treatable disabilities. Of those children, it is estimated that there are 4,800 new cases of infant hydrocephalus in Uganda each year. For many of these 1.2 million children, treatment is unaffordable. And with only 2.5 surgeons for every one million people (USA has 75 surgeons per million) and a mere 1 neurosurgeon per one million people (USA has 11.1 per million), even finding treatment is difficult – nearly impossible – for many Ugandans.

The difference between CURE Uganda and the rest of the CURE hospitals is that CURE Uganda is primarily a neurosurgery hospital. The majority of the children treated at CURE Uganda would die if they could not find and afford treatment – children like Lucia, who was born with a small hole in the front of her skull. Through this small hole, brain matter began to poke through and form what was essentially a tumor on the front of her face. Lucia’s mom Kilara didn’t even know what this condition was let alone any neurosurgeons who could help them. Even if she did know one, there is no way she could afford the thousands of dollars it would cost to have Lucia’s tumor removed and the hole in her skull closed. It wasn’t until a local priest found out about Lucia’s condition and connected Kilara with CURE Uganda that she was able to see a future for her precious baby.

Lucia after surgery to remove her tumor.

Lucia is just one story of the millions of children needlessly suffering from similar conditions, not just in Uganda but all-over East Africa. CURE Uganda is the hub for neurosurgery in both Uganda and all over the region. In fact, CURE Uganda was the first hospital in all sub-Saharan Africa dedicated to the neurosurgical treatment of children.  

Every day, there are children painfully suffering and dying from completely treatable neurological conditions, and it’s CURE’s dream to see all of these children treated. As a result, CURE Uganda is constantly running near max capacity filling all the ward beds and performing multiple life-saving surgeries every day. Every year, CURE Uganda gives the gift of life to thousands of children – a gift that many of these parents were told from their communities was impossible.

Frankly, this lifesaving work is only possible with your partnership. We can’t continue doing this work and expanding the resources available to these children without your financial and prayerful support. Together, we can provide medical resources typically out of reach to people who desperately need them. These babies and families may never know our names, but together, we can save the life of a child, transforming their family, and equipping them to work for a stronger, more secure future that will impact their child, their family, and their country!


Photo of the Joel Witwer

About the Author:

My title says that I'm the Lead Storyteller, previously Storyteller for Niger, previously CUREkids Coordinator in Zambia. All this really means is I hang out with kids and sometimes take photos. I love these kids thus I love my job. My goal is to translate this love into pixels and words so that you can fall in love as well!

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