'It is not a mere preacher, that is wanted here. It is the practical Christian tutor, who can teach people how to become Christians, cure their diseases, construct dwellings, understand and exemplify agriculture and turn his hand to anything...'. (H M Stanley 1875)

"It is truly incredible to be here, we are still finding it hard to imprint on our consciousness that we are actually in Uganda. The Ugandan people are really lovely, many of them will express appreciation of what you are trying to do." (Dr Ian Clarke - 2/8/1988)

Ian and Roberta Clarke and family 1989 in Kiwoko.

Prior to 1988 Roberta and Ian Clarke were happily ensconced in the seaside town of Bangor with their family of three - Sean, Michael and Lauren . Ian was a General Practitioner in a local health centre. Then God spoke to them about going out to Africa. The opportunity came for Ian to visit the Luwero Triangle area of Uganda. God confirmed their call and before they knew it they were among the mud huts, bananas and elephant grass. The whole area was a scene of devastation following the civil war - almost all the buildings had been destroyed and only the local church, in which troops had been billeted, and their future home had been left ' intact'. Their home was the upper floor of a dilapidated farmhouse shared with several families of rodents!

"The need here is appalling. Everywhere you turn there is squalor, poverty, dirt and disease. The people are delighted to have a doctor, the response has been overwhelming." The Clarkes Feb./March 1988.

The whole area was a scene of devastation following the civil war - almost all the buildings had been destroyed and only the local church, in which troops had been billeted, and their future home had been left ' intact'. The land was rich in fertility but the people poor and weak. The situation in the area has been succinctly described in Julian Pettifer's book :

“Few areas of Uganda have a more tragic story to tell than the area of green and fertile farming land north of Kampala, known as the Luwero Triangle. In the tragic war of retribution that bloodied the years of the Obote regime in Uganda, the area was systematically destroyed. In this grim climate, Ian Clarke, a Christian doctor from Northern Ireland, came to visit Luwero. He opened a clinic on the steps of a bullet riddled church. The floor of the church is his operating table, and in the doorway the local pastor, ironically named Livingstone, dispenses the drugs.”

( From the book 'Missionaries' by Julian Pettifer ).

Challenged by what he had seen, Dr. Ian Clarke resigned from his Medical Practice near Belfast and returned to Uganda to become the only doctor to tens upon tens of thousands people in an area half the size of Northern Ireland. Their home was the upper floor of a dilapidated farmhouse shared with several families of rodents! With a lot of effort and improvisation their home was made 'shipshape' with a small generator providing some light in the evening, later supplemented by solar lights.

Medical Situation

The medical situation was easier to describe - there simply were no medical facilities in the surrounding area. Improvising again Dr. Clarke started to train some of the remaining local villagers in simple health care and hygiene, building up his first team of 18 Health Workers capable of treating diseases which were curable - such as Malaria . Immunization clinics against childhood diseases such as measles, polio, diptheria and tetanus were begun.

Trips to neighbouring villages for treatment and immunizations were started and the people in the area rapidly learnt where to come for help.

In the first years came the hard slog of building up a team. For a Ugandan to move from the capital Kampala to the back of beyond in Luwero required the same element of sacrifice as for a European to come to Luwero. Some people proved suitable, others not so suitable. By what seemed trial and error the team was built up. God moved the hearts of Europeans, Ugandans and North Americans to bring them to this area deep in the Luwero triangle.

First Health Centre

The local people decided that they wanted to build a medical clinic. The medical team realised that there was a need for a Maternity Centre to care for expectant mothers and deal with difficult deliveries, a Laboratory so that they could improve diagnosis and somewhere to treat patients with Tuberculosis. Then in July 1988 through the unexpected death of Barbara Kelly in N. Ireland, monies came in to establish a memorial fund to build a Health Centre. Up to then they had only managed to build a dispensary, part of which housed a family.

"Not one of us who knew her (Barbara) has gone untouched by her life. We have the privilege of seeing the fruit which her life and death have produced." The Clarkes 19/07/90.

The old foundations of a school were discovered hidden in the elephant grass. Bricks from ruined houses were commandeered and caches of bricks were remembered and found in the jungle, which quickly reclaims untilled land. The villagers eagerly made mud bricks, dried them in the sun and then fired them in earth kilns. Bricks of every shape and size were mortared and plastered to help form the Barbara Kelly Memorial Hospital - it was twenty-four months in the building. All the work was, of necessity, done on a shoe string. The vast majority of finance for the work came from individuals and churches making small donations.

" It has been like the widow's barrel of flour - there is always just enough for the next meal or next step." The Clarkes 1989.

Patients and Treatment AIDS

Many patients present with anaemia, sometimes due to Hookworm infestation in their gut, but more often due to malaria, especially in small children. For children and infants the situation can be life threatening making blood transfusion a necessity.

However, before giving blood you need to make sure that you aren't going to give the patient AIDS through giving infected blood. Through cooperation with the central blood transfusion laboratory all blood is now screened by the most sensitive tests known except in dire emergencies when their own laboratory test is used - this is slightly less sensitive. The risks of giving the patient blood infected with the AIDS virus was reduced from over 20% to less than 1%. Karen Morgan, a bacteriologist from the West Coast C F in Vancouver, was been responsible for setting up the laboratory and training the technicians.

The problem of the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS - called SLIM in Uganda for obvious reasons) caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) cannot be underestimated. It is a problem which is not peculiar to Uganda which is trying to face up to it rather than hiding it. In large hospitals at least 60% of inpatients are HIV positive. Between 15% and 20% of the adult population are estimated to be HIV positive and either have or will go on to develop full-blown AIDS inside three years. Where possible those who suffer from HIV infection are counselled and prayed with. There is no cure for AIDS. There is much more to be done in the field of AIDS care, including health education, care of the dying and home care.

Medical Superintendants

Previously the health centre was an offshoot clinic of Mengo Hospital in Kampala. It now has its own fully fledged Health Centre Board. Quarterly meetings of this board take place with day to day running in the medical superintendent's hands in association with the Programmes Manager (currently Ken Finch) and the heads of departments.

Dr. Richard Montgomery

When Ian Clarke became ill and had to return to N. Ireland, Dr. Richard Montgomery took over the work and developed it further. Without his sacrifice and that of his wife Heather and family, the work in Kiwoko would have come to an end, with the hospital slowly being taken over by the elephant grass, its shell being left to whisper of what had once been, of the faith and work and witness. Richard is now a General Practitioner in England. 

Dr Donald Brownlie

Dr. Donald Brownlie, from N. Ireland, who took over from Richard, ably helped by his wife Una, retired from being medical superintendent only to take up a posting in his beloved Livinstonia in Malawi in 1999. Donald has worked in Africa most of his life, he and Una have given themselves exclusively and exhaustively to the work in Kiwoko, maintaining its fine 'Christian tradition' of service. This is the hallmark of Kiwoko Hospital - to give and give and give again. The poor are not turned away as in other places. Donald is now with the Lord, I have never met such a humble and dedicated man.

Dr Nick Wooding

Dr Nick Wooding, from England, was our previous medical superintendent and is now back in Oxford, England. He was greatly helped by David Hodgson.

Dr Peter took over as Acting Medical Superintendent.

Dr Rory Wilson

Dr Rory Wilson, from N. Ireland, is now the fifth ex-pat medical superintendent. Over the past number of years Mr Jim McAnlis developed the new role of Programmes Manager which Ken Finch has now taken over. Margaret McAnlis ran the student elective programme and income generation for HIV/AIDs patients; Judith Finch has taken over from Margaret, as well as fitting in her work as a therapist.

The days are long gone when a Medical Superintendent could do this job and also run the business/projects side of the hospital, apply for grants, supervise the farm etc.

Dr. Ian Clarke has written a book on his experiences in Kiwoko and Uganda and copies can still be had by contacting us. Dr Nick Wooding has written a follow-up book - on his time at Kiwoko.


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