Uganda (MNN) — The spiritual atmosphere in Uganda thrives on superstition. Thus, when a child is born with a birth defect, frightened families often consult spiritual healers, or simply abandon their child.
In impoverished countries like Uganda, the likelihood of a child being born with a neurological disease, or procuring one shortly after birth, is much higher than in more-developed regions. Poor prenatal screening and maternal nutrition are just some of the causes leading to the increased risk of diseases like spina bifida or hydrocephalus (otherwise known as "water on the brain").
CURE Children's Hospital of Uganda specializes in neurological diseases like these. It's one of the very few hospitals who will accept patients with these diseases, because few hospitals in the country know how to treat them. Therefore, parents who do choose to continue seeking a cure for their children are not only shunned from their families, but they are often turned away from hospitals.
"Many hospitals and staff are indifferent to children like this," says Derek Johnson, executive director of the CURE International hospital in Uganda. "They feel helpless, and there's nothing they can do. So to find a hospital where the staff are professional and well trained, [who] love them and respect them the way they do, is priceless."
The hospital's exceptional care for their patients goes above and beyond anything in the country. Not only are surgeries offered free of charge, but love is spread to every patient and family as the hospital staff prays with them and shows genuine concern. With Christ at the center of all they do, the CURE staff reaches out to spread the message and hope of Christ to people who would receive no more than a sideways glance otherwise.
For the children who receive surgery, their lives are changed forever. Now that the CURE hospital in Uganda has been open for ten years, the staff has been able to see visible progress of children they helped years ago. Children who would otherwise be outcasts from society are instead living vibrant lives, thanks to surgery they had as an infant.
The girl pictured to the right is only one example. Eunice received surgery for spina bifida at the CURE hospital in 2003. Without treatment, very likely she would never have walked. But thanks to CURE, Eunice now goes to school and even plays sports.
CURE Children's Hospital of Uganda has seen over 25,000 patients and has performed over 7,700 surgeries; still, more could be done. Johnson says the unfortunate truth is that they see only a fraction of the children who need their help in Uganda.
"We estimate that we're probably seeing about between 20 and maybe 35 percent of the new cases that are born in Uganda alone. The fact is, we could do more if we had more."
Pray that the hospital would be provided with the resources to expand to help more children like Eunice. If you'd like to help, visit helpcurenow.org.
Pray also for stereotypes surrounding neurological diseases to subside.
"It's very much a spiritual war going on here," says Johnson. "There's a lot of evil attached to the stigmas against hydrocephalus and spina bifida."
Pray, ultimately, that people would turn to the Lord instead of witchcraft or superstition when confronted with this issue.