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Doctor Bank seeking to help desperately sick Ugandans.

Byline: By Robin Turner Western Mail

A welsh journalist has travelled to the heart of one of Africa's nations to help bring relief to thousands of children suffering from HIV and other diseases.

Jayne Thomas, 38, from Laugharne, Carmarthenshire spent 10 days in trouble-torn Uganda with the Doctor Bank programme.

The voluntary aid programme is being co-ordinated by Cardiff's Keith Moger MBE, a leading member of the Rotary International charity.

The Doctor Bank is made up of retired or working doctors who volunteer their time to help the desperately ill in Third World countries.

Of all the problem-hit countries in Africa, Uganda with its population of 25m has had one of the hardest and most chequered recent histories.

The tyrannical regime of Idi Amin in the 1970s is thought to have led to the brutal death of 300,00 opponents.

And another 100,000 are thought to have died due to human rights abuses under Milton Obote's rule in the 1980s.

Now, HIV and malaria are scything through the population, particularly the young, and the country is also threatened by a vicious civil war in the north.

There, the shadowy Lord's Resistance led by John Kony is regularly involved in bloody fire fights with troops loyal to President Yoweri Museveni.

There is also sporadic fighting involving other rebel groups the West Nile Bank Front and the Uganda National Salvation Force.

It has been claimed that children as young as eight or nine are being forced to fight.

Jayne, who has just returned from her trip to Africa said, 'Apart from Wales, Uganda is the most beautiful country I have seen.

'But it is spoiled by corruption and disease and poverty and its terrible effects are everywhere to be seen.

'But the people are proud. I saw one young girl who was just six years old smiling happily even though her legs were covered with what must have been very painful sores.

'The hospitals are rudimentary. One family left with the dead body of a relative sticking out of their car boot - and that was one of the well-off families.'

Jayne travelled with Rotarian Dr David Tibutt to take a first-hand look at the problems facing those trying to help.

They spent much of their time at the Kitovou Mission Hospital in Masaka district in the south-west of landlocked Uganda which is bordered by Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, Congo and Rwanda.

The 60-bed mission hospital is run by the Catholic order of nuns The Sisters of Mary.

Jayne said, 'The sisters work extremely hard but they need more supplies of things like retro virus drugs to treat people with HIV/Aids.

'Many of those around the hospital are desperately poor and sleep in mud shacks with zinc roofs. They live very simply but most seem very happy. But they do need more drugs to fight the HIV epidemic which is sweeping Africa and devastating families.'
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 10, 2004
Words:483
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