Luton North help Ugandan Children

Around 700 children a year are being helped in Uganda with tackling potential hearing problems thanks to a project which was hatched by a doctor and his Rotary member patient.

The relationship between a doctor and their patient is often very special, but this bond has developed into a unique Rotary-inspired project.

Luton North Rotary member, Paul Denton, was a patient for nearly 30 years with Dr Paul Choudhury, who a few years ago retired from full-time practice in Bedfordshire.  Dr Choudhury, who is also an honorary member of the Luton club, chose the moment to set up a project called the Ian Hutcheon Clinic for Children based at the Kisugu Health Centre in Kampala, Uganda.

That was in 2014, and the project is based on the World Health Organization’s recommended strategy of prevention and early intervention of childhood deafness.  “The incidence of permanent childhood deafness in sub-Saharan Africa is considerably higher than that of the western world and 60% of this can be prevented,” explained Dr Choudhury.  “We have trained some nurses in Kisugu to provide free ear care services for children under 16 years of age.  “But we have also started getting all kinds of children having hearing, speech and behavioural problems.  “We have also started outreach clinics in the slum areas of Kampala.”

A couple of years ago, Dr Choudhury reconnected with his former patient when he mentioned the Ugandan project and how they needed an ambulance.  “I knew Paul was involved in various charity work, including the local hospice,” he recalled.  “We desperately needed a mobile clinic to take our services out into the community but did not have enough funds.  “We discussed about how he could continue to help us through his Rotary club.  “I was very emotional at his offer of help and could not find words to thank him.  “He said ‘You have helped me to stay alive; now this is my turn to help you’.”

Through Rotary Luton North, Paul successfully gained a Global Grant which funded for an ambulance to be converted into a sound treated clinic.  This mobile clinic has been the focal point of the hearing screening programme. 

Although there were some challenges faced by Paul during the first Global Grant application, this did not deter him from working on further grants.  The next goal was establishing a Vocational Training Team which could train more health care workers, and at the beginning of this year, after eight months of designing the programme, the VTT grant application was approved.

The grant enabled two UK audiologists to fly out to Uganda to provide a training programme for screeners, audiologists and nurses.  It also allowed them to buy equipment, including the installation of Visual Reinforcement Audiometry.  This is a behavioural test of hearing for small children.  It is the first of its kind in Uganda and has been installed in the clinic in Kampala.

Dr Choudhury is thrilled with the new acquisition.  He said: “The purchase of this equipment now means that we are the only clinic in Uganda offering the full pathway of hearing tests for children aged 0-16 years.  “We have started a two-year pilot new-born hearing screening programme, and we are screening about 350 babies per month in two health centres.  “We are screening new-born babies and six week old babies to assess pass rates in both groups. “It is hoped that increased awareness will translate into earlier intervention to improve outcomes.”  Since last June, a primary school screening programme has been introduced as part of a healthy hearing education programme.

The mobile outreach programme has further expanded to include providing services in children’s homes and day centres.  And, as a result of the Rotary VTT programme, they have employed three more staff, and overall the hearing project will help around 700 children each year.

Dr Choudhury added: “We have set up this centre from a small room, to a fully-functioning and most up-to-date children’s ear and hearing care centre.  “It is the only one of its kind in Uganda offering a free service.”

The Luton North Rotary’s pursuit of global grants has resulted in the club being awarded the District International Award for the VTT project in Uganda.
The club also has two further global grants under way, both in Gujarat in India, for the Mission for Vision project and one which is seeking to buy cardiac operation theatre equipment.

By Dave King
November 26, 2018

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