Kisiizi Partners: Supporting life in all its fullness
Kisiizi Partners is a UK charity which was set up to support Kisiizi Hospital in south-west Uganda. The 275 bedded hospital is a private-not-for-profit organisation under the auspices of the Church of Uganda. The hospital compound comprises a school of nursing and midwifery, primary school, and tourism centre with zip wire, as well as the inpatient and outpatient areas. The initial call for help came 20 years ago via a campaign to sponsor a nurse, but now Kisiizi Partners financially supports all areas of the hospital’s work, and maintains a close relationship with the management team. The trustees have all spent time working in the hospital themselves.
Arriving at equatorial dusk, the first sight of Kisiizi is twinkling lights nestled into the basin of a valley thick with eucalyptus and woodsmoke. Several hours from the Rwandan border, the rationale for Kisiizi’s location is not obvious in the dark, but a daylight walk into the forest leads you to the answer – a waterfall. Kisiizi was built on the site of an abandoned flax factory in 1958 – John Sharp, a British missionary doctor, foresaw the potential for hydroelectric power. His vision has been realised, with the waterfall now harnessed to power the hospital compound and local villages.
A place for everyone
At Kisiizi, high-quality care is provided by compassionate and dedicated staff, comprising a mix of Ugandans and expatriates. No-one seeking medical care is turned away due to lack of financial means, and Kisiizi offers an extensive and innovative health insurance scheme to the local population, largely subsistence farmers, for whom illness may otherwise signal financial catastrophe.
There are many incredible stories of how lives are transformed at Kisiizi. Examples include the man shackled in his village due to mental health problems, who with time and care joined the mental health team as a staff member; the baby who underwent highly specialised surgery for a severe congenital malformation; and the many women who have safely delivered babies in Kisiizi, thanks to the Mothers Waiting Home where they await the onset of labour, rather than facing the challenges of travel during labour and arriving too late with advanced complications.
Kisiizi functions on a financial tightrope and could not function without support from Kisiizi Partners. Alongside the challenges of retaining staff in an area with poor access and amenities, Kisiizi has faced threats on a larger scale – for example, a recent flash flood which, as a result of damage to electrical supplies and equipment, led to the death of several babies on the neonatal unit. The spectre of Covid-19 looms large on the horizon, and we all fear for the effects of this rampant virus on a malnourished and impoverished population with little reserve.
We hope that in a further 20 years’ time, we will be able to reflect anew on years of a productive partnership supporting our Ugandan family as they aim to bring “life in all its fullness”, the hospital motto, to the poorest and most vulnerable. Find more information here.
Article by Katie Mayers, Trustee of Kisiizi Partners – Katie is a paediatric registrar (children’s doctor) in West Yorkshire. She joined Kisiizi Partners as a trustee, along with her husband Richard (also a doctor), in 2018.