Feature: Tiny hospital in remote northern Uganda beacon of hope for refugees, locals

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ADJUMANI, Uganda, July 14 (Xinhua) -- On Wednesday, a South Sudan refugee mother walked into the doors of Mugula Health Center IV with a hallucinating baby. Followed by three other women, the mother wailed until a health worker assured them that the baby boy would be ok.

The four-year-old was suffering from malaria and needed urgent attention, according to the health workers.

Mugula Health IV is a beacon of hope for thousands of South Sudan refugees and their host communities in the remote northern Uganda district of Adjumani, about 470 km north of the capital Kampala. The hospital serves up to 200,000 people, half of whom are South Sudan refugees.

Tree shades give a cooling effect to the 40-bed health center established 25 years ago to provide health services to refugees from what is now South Sudan and then part of Sudan.

It is common to find patients sleep on the floor in the wards as the hospital capacity is already overwhelmed.

Emmanuel Aniap, the hospital superintendent, told Xinhua during a recent visit that the health workers see an average of 400 people on an outpatient basis every day.

The 10-bed maternity ward is full and some mothers are out sleeping under tree shades.

Judith Odaru in charge of the maternity ward told Xinhua that some mothers are discharged several hours after giving birth in a bid to create space for others. Odaru said the hospital registers over 1,000 deliveries annually.


Although the situation at the health facility is dire, thousands of refugees and locals keep coming because the facility is their hope, according to Aniap.

He said although the hospital faces staffing challenges, health workers from humanitarian agencies help to address the human resources gap. He said the hospital now has 43 personnel out of the recommended 48.

He said humanitarian agencies also supplement the drugs supplied by the government. He said this gives assurances to the patients that they would get the care they need.

The staff of the health center also carry out health camps and outreaches in the surrounding communities. During the outreaches, among others, pregnant mothers are encouraged to come to the health facility to get services.

Odaru said although they are overwhelmed by work in the maternity department, they have to continue working to save lives.

"The work is too much. It strains me a lot but I keep working because that is the profession I chose. I am supposed to work for eight hours but since our number is not enough, there are times I work for 12 hours," she said.

According to the government, health centers like Mugula need support from the international community.

Hillary Onek, Uganda's minister of disaster preparedness and refugees, said the government is overwhelmed by the influx of refugees, which has undermined the provision of social services like health and education.

Uganda, the UN Refugee Agency and other relief organizations in May this year launched a 927-million-U.S.-dollar emergency relief appeal to cater for the influx of Congolese and South Sudanese refugees fleeing into the country.

The money will be used to address the needs of the refugees and host communities by the end of 2020.

"Uganda needs urgent financial support and solidarity from our partners to enable us to continue coping with increasing numbers of refugees and be able to receive, register, allocate land and settle them, while at the same time, supporting communities that host them," Onek said in May. Enditem

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