Tim Goodacre is Surgical Adviser to the Semiliki Trust and has been involved in nurturing the Trust since its foundation.
He is a Plastic Surgeon based in Oxford and his wife Kate is a Trustee for Semiliki Trust. They had previously visited Aru in March 2012 and had been very touched by the welcome they received.
This post describes the first few days of the visit Tim made to Eastern DRC in October with Nigel Pearson. They made two short visits in and out of Congo, to Aru and Bukavu regions, passing through Uganda and Rwanda in between. Tim is advising on how the Semiliki Trust can better support surgical services in Eastern DRC.
What follows is Tim’s personal account of the first part of the trip, his visit to Mahagi hospital.
“It was late afternoon when we arrived in Mahagi town; conspicuous for the fact that it has no tarmac, no mains electricity, little running water, almost no cars, very few shops or any of the colour so evident just a few miles back over the border in Uganda.
However, we were greeted by some of the most friendly, cheerful and welcoming people imaginable in every meeting place and dwelling we entered.
Our brief stay at Mahagi was focussed on visiting the hospital. It presents as a fine, brick built, cluster of newish small buildings. It housed a ward block, theatre block, children’s ward and so forth.
My immediate impression was of a facility run carefully and sustainably, with much initiative to maximise care with the extremely limited resources available. Power is supplied by a generator but usually only after dusk for a few hours when required.
Drug and theatre supplies are at the barest minimum and it was without doubt, less well resourced than any other hospital I have visited in numerous poor nations throughout the world.
The staff are dedicated but few in number, and thirsty for knowledge and guidance of every kind.
My overall impression was of a centre that has enormous potential, but in its current state would be very challenging to use as a training centre for any but the most basic of surgical techniques.
However, the motivation and urgent desire to develop was infectious and without doubt, Mahagi Hospital is a place that would reward investment of significant time and resources.
Whilst at Mahagi, we were invited to join a wonderful service in the church led by our dear friend Ande from Aru. We then shared in a tasty late lunch, provided at sacrificial expense by the parish for the visiting clergy, as well as for Nigel and me.
This was followed by an invigorating walk in the late afternoon along the deserted road south towards Bunia then back past small settlements until night fell and we could hardly see our way!
A time for reflection
My thoughts were very much on the particular harsh trials that these people have endured over so many years. Whilst seeming so completely akin to almost every other rural African community I have encountered before, most of the latter have never experienced the kind of horror and suffering experienced by many of the people we had met here today.
The following morning we made an early start saying a sad farewell to our incredibly welcoming hosts. We drove back through Uganda, where the immediate impression is of a wealth of colour, vibrancy and riches in comparison with the struggling Congolese.”