Operation Operations

From disaster to miracle: Overcoming physical disability in Teso sub-region

Some disasters are silent, but nonetheless very present. When you visit a Primary school and notice that 50 to 60 pupils  have the same physical impairment, you wonder – “how is this possible?” This tragedy is worsened by the fact that over 2,000 young people in Bukedea District have this problem. It is characterised by children walking difficultly, poorly developed buttocks, and problems while sitting on a school bench or defecating, often writhing in pain. Because of the underdeveloped muscles, it is impossible for the patients to run. Affected women are not able to deliver naturally, so that many opt for caesarean birth. This situation is prevalent in the other districts within the Teso sub-region.

Cause of the problem

Between 10-20 years ago, these young adults got quinine injections administered through their buttocks, as treatment against malaria. Many lives were saved. However, in this area about 5% of the children injected reacted negatively to the treatment. In an attempt to protect itself, the body formed a band of connective tissue (fibrosis) in the lower part of the back. This band presses on the muscles, blood vessels and nerves, and makes further physical
development almost impossible. The high prevalence of this problem in the Teso sub-region could be attributed to the low level of medical care, inexperienced health workers, and perhaps also genetic factors.

In the last 2 years, over 100 young people were operated upon in Kumi Hospital in order to enable their  muscles, blood vessels and nerves to develop and function again. Immediately after the operation, the patients engage in exercises to prevent the tissue from connecting again. These exercises are done for at least a year. The operations are financed by Rotary clubs in The Netherlands. The results are amazing. I recently visited a Primary school where about 40 pupils were operated upon. Some of them almost jumped over my head in excitement. A new life began for them. Even 20 year olds recover almost completely.

The Rotary Club of Bukedea has assembled about US$40,000 from Rotary clubs in Europe and anonymus donors. We have also applied for a Global Grant of about US$100,000. Under the name “Operation Operations” we hope to conduct the operations at the Health Centre IV Bukedea. Our goal is between 1,000 and 1,500 young people to be operated upon next year.

In preparation, a ward was renovated, while plans to buy medical machines and hire experienced surgeons and a physiotherapist are underway. We hope that 10 young people per day will be operated. The exercises conducted by the physiotherapist begin a day after the operation. When feasible, the patients will be transferred to their homes where the physiotherapist will check on them daily. This will also enable family involvement in the recovery process. We recognize that there could be cases of children with physical disability not related to the Quinine injection, for these we hope to provide e.g. crutches, wheelchairs, or prostheses. This intervention is made possible with support from Rotary clubs in Germany, Denmark, Belgium and especially The Netherlands. We welcome support to enable the club to give more affected young people a chance to enjoy optimal development.

Albert Koffeman

President RC Bukedea 2020 – 2021


00256 78 45 42 740

Operation operations (summary)
Probably about 2000 young people in Bukedea  District suffer from the consequences of injections  with Quinine against malaria in their bottom. They have much pain and often problems with running sitting and defecating. Girls often get problems with giving birth. Some  children develop a club foot.
Action until now:
140 young people are operated and function normal again
Operate all of them, supporting  young people with other physical problems in the process.
Expected results:
All these youngsters functioning normal again and other physical impaired helped as well as possible
Current status of the project:
We hope to start the project again in October.
Effect of the project until now:
About 150 young lives improved.