In early 2015 I had the opportunity to fulfill a long-held dream. Loaded down with donated medical supplies I traveled for the better part of 36 hours from my home in upstate New York to Kameke, a village in eastern Uganda. I am a pretty seasoned traveler and was well-prepared for any physical inconveniences during my trip (there were actually very few thanks to the hospitality of my Ugandan hosts) but hadn’t anticipated how much this visit – and the wonderful people I met – would stay with me.
Kameke Medical Clinic
The end-point of my visit – or so I thought- was to be the Kameke Medical Clinic, where I imagined dropping off my donations before heading back to Kampala. Entering the tiny building, I soon realized this wasn’t to be. The sight of the empty laboratory benches, crowded, tiny, unlit wards, and faces of the people lined up outside the clinic waiting to receive care left an unshakable impression.
Simon Oullo, who helped launch the clinic in December 2014 in response to the overwhelming need for a community-based health center to meet the vast health needs of Kameke village’s rural population, explained how the newly-launched facility still lacks basic resources and can only cope with the most routine illnesses and emergencies. On an average day, fifty people arrive at the clinic to receive care, many of them walking up to ten kilometers to access services. The number grows daily, as word about the services reaches outlying areas of the district. Many seek treatment for AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, or water-borne intestinal illness. All have no other place to go.
At the current time first aid supplies and basic medications are in extremely short supply, space limited, and outreach services next to non-existent. When I visited in April 2015 there was a dedicated, albeit small, laboratory area, a small consultation room, and two wards – one for men and one for women/children – each of which accommodates three people lying adjacent to each other on thin papyrus mats. Despite the clinic’s promising beginning, there is a desperate need for new premises (the current building is rented,) an expanded range of medical equipment, improved outreach services, enhanced staff training and a dedicated maternity unit.
Simon Oullo, the village’s own “Good Shepherd,” has already acquired land between the primary and high school where it is hoped that a new clinic building can be constructed. Provisional plans include a dedicated maternity ward, expanded men’s and women’s wards, a larger consultation room, and an enlarged laboratory suite. Laboratory and medical equipment, basic comfort and sanitation items such as soap and bedding, and medications need to be purchased, and clinic staff aided in furthering their training. Projected costs for this project total around $7000.