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Health worker braves war zone in malaria fight

PUBLISHED: 16:47 28 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:50 16 August 2010

ON LOCATION: Richard Page (left) outside a clinic in Uganda.

ON LOCATION: Richard Page (left) outside a clinic in Uganda.

A MENTAL health worker was flown to Uganda the day after an armed battle to help in a bid to eliminate malaria. Richard Page, who works for Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust and is trustee and treasurer of the Malaria Consortium arrived in Kampala on Septembe

A MENTAL health worker was flown to Uganda the day after an armed battle to help in a bid to eliminate malaria.

Richard Page, who works for Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust and is trustee and treasurer of the Malaria Consortium arrived in Kampala on September 14.

His task was to ensure financial viability and governance of the non-governmental organisation, whose workers control and fight malaria by funding clinical workers and supplying nets.

He flew north to the arid region Karamoja, just south of Sudan, which has been in a state of conflict for the past 20 years.

Mr Page said: "When we flew by light aircraft into the airstrip at Kotido we were met by an armed guard.

"The security briefing we got from the local District Commissioner and police chief was that the position had improved - there had not been an armed ambush on the road into town for a week.

"This didn't sound too comforting to me. This had been the area where the Lord's Resistance Army had been active and there was a lot of cattle rustling. This sounds quaint until you realise that the rustlers use AK47s and we saw quite a few of these around."

A nun at a local mission told Mr Page that the security position had improved dramatically as only a few weeks before, their ambulance was shot at.

Mr Page said: "I have lived and worked in several African countries and have seen the effect of malaria and experienced being hospitalised with it. My wife used to work for the Medical Research Council trying to find a vaccine for it and even after decades of research they are no nearer finding one.

"Malaria Consortium was distributing Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs) through the maternity work of this hospital and was supporting the training of village health and education workers.

"This was particularly difficult as much of the population are nomadic herders. However the effect of this consistent community-based work was evident.

"In the birthing clinic there had not been a malaria-induced miscarriage for quite a time, nor any malaria-based infant mortality. There were more problems in getting this level of protection for home births.

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