A few weeks ago, we had two medical students, Tara and Mark, from King’s College London volunteer with us in Uganda. They wanted to share their personal experience of Uganda and the work of the IHCC:
We were only in Uganda for 10 days, but we packed as much of the remarkable country as we could into that short time. We saw the beauty and vibrancy of the region, visiting the luscious and verdant source of the Nile, but also witnessed the huge struggles facing the country, including a struggling healthcare system and the incredible poverty faced by many in the slums of Kampala.
Although we got the opportunity to visit the largest hospital in Uganda, Mulago Hospital, most of our time was spent in the IHCC clinic in Kisenyi Health Centre in the heart of Kampala. This clinic offers free hearing tests and ear examinations for children, as well as providing free medicine and hearing aids to children affected by hearing loss.
We were warmly welcomed by the whole IHCC team, who allowed us to get stuck in, talking to parents, playing with the children and even refurbishing their mobile clinic. We saw a multitude of interesting patients in the clinic. Many came in with ear infections that Dr Paul Choudhury or clinical nurse Daniel would inspect and prescribe free medication for. Dr Paul explained to us that chronic ear infections can lead to deafness if untreated, and that many parents can’t afford to pay for antibiotics from the hospital.
Other children came in with parents who had noticed something wrong when their child had difficulty talking, had very limited speech, or were simply not responding to noises. Despite the difficulty of seeing such children struggling with communication, we got to see the impact of the IHCC’s work, as many of these children can be fitted for hearing aids, that are paid for by the IHCC’s sponsors. These hearing aids allow the children to hear sounds for the first time and learn spoken language. They allow the children to interact socially with other children and adults, promoting normal development. We then followed the patients through and saw how the level of a child’s hearing can be determined in detail and a hearing aid specific for that child’s hearing loss can be programmed.
One of the highlights of our visit to Uganda was helping at an outreach to a village in the Mityana district. This small rural health centre was crowded with dozens of people, some of whom had travelled from miles around for the opportunity. That day we saw over 40 children who had various issues from hearing loss to ear infections and other conditions like cerebral palsy. Our audiologist Jojo screened the hearing of all the children and babies we saw. This is one way that IHCC are helping to catch deafness early in children’s lives. The sooner they provide a child with a hearing aid, the greater the chance that the child will successfully learn to speak and be able to develop normally.
The outreach really brought home the importance of the IHCC’s work. Watching the relief on mothers’ faces when we gave their children free antibiotics really highlighted how difficult it is for children to get treatment.
We finished our trip with a greater understanding, not just about the IHCC and childhood deafness, but about ourselves and the lives of people who live a continent away. We would like to thank the IHCC for this opportunity and for the work that they do in Uganda, helping children that no one else is helping.