An estimated 1.8 million people were displaced from their homes by the Lord’s Resistane Army in the 1990s. Gulu, in Northern Uganda (pictured above), is seeing improvements in healthcare, thanks to the NRO
NRO’s vision is to develop sustainable healthcare for disadvantaged and vulnerable communities in developing countries. Founded in 2009 as an NGO, the move to charitable status follows eight successful years improving nursing and healthcare in Gulu, Northern Uganda.
In the 1990s Northern Uganda suffered due to the violence of the Lord’s Resistance Army and by the mid-2000s an estimated 1.8 million people were displaced from their homes.
NRO specialises in empowering and supporting nurses to access appropriate, evidenced-based healthcare practices. It was founded in 2009 by Michelle Grainger, a nurse and senior lecturer at Kingston and St George’s University in London with support in Uganda from Vincent Mujune, a public health worker. Originally a team of five volunteers managed operations but this has expanded to eight, with one paid part-time employee in Uganda.
The charity aims to make improvements to the care patients receive and the hospital environment. NRO has developed partnerships with local community-based groups to enhance the patient experience and support nursing care. This is achieved through education, developing evidence-based healthcare linked with the distribution of equipment and gifts.
NRO has delivered tangible lifesaving and life transforming success. In Uganda, relatives of hospital patients are expected to provide their food and refreshments, which creates a gap for those without familial support. Consequently, a number of people in Gulu were dying from dehydration or starvation each month. To alleviate this, NRO set up the 25:35 project, inspired by the Biblical verse from the Book of Matthew: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”
NRO pays for a local worker to prepare healthy meals and supply drinks for the most vulnerable patients and, as a result, the mortality rate from malnutrition has been considerably improved.
The charity has also worked to improve maternity care by providing basic essentials to expectant mothers in ‘Mamma and Baby’ packs. Allied with this, was a community delivered educational programme, which has benefited hundreds in the area. In partnership with the Church of Uganda, this programme has now developed into a combined and complementary initiative.
In the hospital environment, NRO has worked with staff to improve sanitation and hygiene by focussing on this as a means to counter infection. Uganda has a high death rate from malaria; NRO has installed mosquito nets and fitted screens to the window spaces, which has helped mitigate the risks to patients and staff.
Clearly, travelling and working in Uganda is not without its dangers for the UK volunteers and the threats posed extend beyond malaria. Although the Lord’s Resistance Army has largely been routed, its despot leader – Jospeh Kony – remains at large with his whereabouts unknown and violent attacks by roaming bandits can occur. Volunteers have to take measures to ensure their safety and be alert to any signs of trouble, cognisant that they operate without the wider supporting infrastructure of the large global charities.
Now that NRO has formally been constituted as a charity, there are exciting times ahead. Speaking of the launch the Ugandan High Commissioner, His Excellency, Julius Peter Moto, reiterated his support towards efforts to improve the health sector in Uganda.
These sentiments were endorsed by NRO’s patron Ann Gloag OBE, who said: “As a former nurse, with a deep affection for Africa, I am delighted to become Patron of this worthwhile charity. Having had business and charitable interests in Africa for over 30 years, I know how difficult it can be for small charities to work there and I wish Nurses Reaching Out every success in its endeavours in Uganda.
“As a charity where all donations go to the project, as well as volunteers paying their own air fares, accommodation and expenses, I believe Nurses Reaching Out is very good value for money for any donor.”
NRO is a member of the Ugandan-UK Health Alliance, which is supported by the governments of both countries. Nevertheless, NRO does not receive any government or corporate sponsorship; although it is backed by Kingston and St George’s University NRO is funded solely by private donations and fundraising activities.
There is scope to develop NRO’s work and the team have ambitions to build on their existing foundations. The 25:35 Project is aiming to expand across the country and, subject to evaluation, the intention is to introduce Baby Packs into another five districts.
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