St Mary`s Hospital Lacor in Gulu City has successfully operated on and treated thirty children with Anorectal malformation, a birth defect where a child presents without an anus or narrow anal opening.
Such children experience chronic constipation or difficulty in passing stool among others. The Acholi community widely attributes the condition to ‘’evil spirits’’ or bad omens known as ”jok” in Acholi.
Babies born with such conditions are isolated, stigmatized, and believed that they will never heal. However, St Mary`s Hospital Lacor in Gulu City held a five days pediatric surgical camp with support from Mabarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) that ran from March 5th to 10th, 2023.
The camp was bankrolled by Bethany Kids, a compassionate Christian mission transforming the lives of African children with surgical conditions and disabilities through pediatric surgery, rehabilitation, public education, spiritual ministry, and training health professionals.
Alfred Oryem, a communication officer at St Mary`s Hospital Lacor told URN on Monday that the beneficiaries were very vulnerable and had been on the hospital’s waiting list.
Isaac Ibira is one of the parents from the Lango sub-region whose four-year-old son benefited from the pediatric surgical camp. Ibira says that they learned of their son`s condition when he was four days old, and their struggle to get treatment was unsuccessful due to financial constraints.
Besides the ailing condition of their son, the agony was added to the family by members of the community who termed the condition as a curse adding that it would never get healed. According to Ibira, the family went through Lira Regional Referral Hospital (LRRH), Mulago National Specialised Hospital, and Atapara Hospital but they were only able to get temporary relief through a cecostomy tube.
Now, Ibira, says that he is a happy man when his son was able to get a permanent solution at no cost. “I am very happy. God should bless all those who operated on my baby. I am very glad because I paid nothing for this surgery,” says Ibira. Betty Lakot is also a lucky mother whose son benefited from the surgical camp.
Her son was born with hypospadias-a birth defect in which the opening of the urethra is not located at the tip of the penis. She explained that her son dropped out of school because he could not control his urine and also suffered stigma and abuse from his colleagues. However, hope has been restored after the condition was operated on last week.
The pediatric surgical camp is an initiative of the late Dr. Martin Situma who surveyed the Northern and Eastern Regions and made recommendations for its urgent need. Since its inception about three years ago, more than 100 children with similar conditions have been operated on and many others screened.
Dr. Charles Odongo, one of the team members, says that the long-term plan is to find pediatric surgeons who will be based in St Mary`s Hospital Lacor to continue doing the same. “The first camp was sponsored by Love Without Boundaries and the last two camps are basically Bethany Kids,” says Dr. Charles Odongo. .
The camp is also geared towards training pediatric surgeons as well as medical officers and interns from within and other learning institutions in the country.