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Christmas in Africa 2009

Dr Mhoira Leng
15th December 2009

Listening to my neighbours singing carols round my door last night made me nostalgic for frosty evenings, Christmas trees straight from the forest, sparkling lights in the early darkness, the eerie stillness of snow falling and time to celebrate with friends and family the wonderful joy and hope of Christmas. Maybe I am overlooking the busyness, shopping frenzy and choked roads though the latter is very much a reality here in Kampala. Uganda loves Christmas and there have been slightly strange Santas and endless carols in the supermarket for some weeks now. Hospice Africa Uganda hosted a wonderful Christmas party for patients attended by many friends including the Irish ambassador shown here with Dr Anne. The children had a crazy time on the bouncy castle which kept threatening to deflate - something to do with the hoards of kids all jumping at once. You may remember the story I told of a young woman from Congo called Josephine who features in my last BLOG post. Here she is enjoying the celebrations with her family and she sends her love to all the Cairdeas family.
These past few weeks have been busy with visits to Tanzania and Sudan for cancer conferences. There is more and more interest in developing comprehensive cancer control programmes and integrating palliative care. Governments are becoming involved as they realise that non-communicable diseases such as cancer will become major threats to health in the African region over the next few decades. Francophone and North Africa have new initiatives to develop palliative care and it was inspiring to spend some time in Kampala with colleagues from Senegal, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan. It can be a tremendous encouragement and support to meet like minded colleagues who can advise and support and it is a huge privilege to help in this way. This photo shows the small palliative care delegation at the Sudan conference; Dr Nahla from Sudan, Esther a UK nurse working in Sudan, Dr Omar Shamieh from Jordan and working in Saudi Arabia and yours truly.

Back in Kampala we are hard pressed to finish the planning for the degree in palliative care but it has been great to have some volunteers and visitors to our team. Dr Jo over from the UK for a year, Willemien from the Netherlands, Dr Elaine from Ireland and others from the USA and beyond. They bring energy, skills,love enthusiasm, ideas and fun. Thanks to all.
So what are some refections at this festive time. There are the panoramic pictures in my mind of Khartoum at sunrise overlooking the confluence of the White and Blue Niles, the beauty and tranquility of the Indian ocean and joining with over 700 delegates in Tanzania to fight cancer. Then there are the intensely private moments we are privileged to witness and share; 16 year old Viola pictured here, very ill and telling us how much she loves her jaja(grandmother); singing a favourite hymn on the ward with Jackie, a young mother, sharing a cuddle with Ben who is 5 and enjoying the party; listening to Joyce's father tell us how much he will miss her; making sure Annet will get her pain controlled and get home for Christmas; seeing Josephine's beautiful smile despite her uncertain future.

We celebrate the Prince of Peace coming into a hurting and needy world with a message of love and hope for all peoples. Thankyou so much for all your love and support and wishing you a wonderful Christmas.
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