A COUPLE are embarking on a mercy mission to save lives in Africa.
In a matter of days, John and Chris Philip, of Fixby, will touch down in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The retired breast cancer specialist and his wife have enlisted a 22-strong team to help them overhaul a dilapidated hospital on the island of Ukerewe.
The island lies in a remote spot in the middle of Lake Victoria, in the north of Tanzania.
The conditions at the hospital are so bad that one in 16 children born there die.
The husband and wife, who have two children of their own, want to change the alarming statistic as part of a Rotary International project.
They will install £250,000 worth of life-saving equipment including new operating tables, drip stands, surgical instruments and hospital beds.
John told the Examiner he was ‘appalled’ by the sorry state of the facilities.
He said: “It is in a dire state of disrepair, and is shabby and unhygienic.
“I just felt that if we could go and invest some funds there and offer some training to the staff we could help them improve things.”
The couple – who met doing charity work in Nigeria more than 35 years ago – have been busily preparing for the mission since January.
John said: “It’s only a matter of days now – we fly on Sunday morning from Manchester.
“I’m nervous. The 40-foot container with all the equipment in it is slowly making its way there – I hope it arrives safely.
“I’m worried about managing the team too.
“We have a group of 24 people and there is only one hotel on the island which we have booked out.
“The hotel staff told me they have never had 24 people stay and they only have one dining table with six chairs.
“We will have to live basically.”
John has hired a van with a loud speaker so the team can drive through the villages and call out to the people.
They will be handing out some 5,000 free mosquito nets and information leaflets printed in Swahili, the local language.
They aim to educate the local people about child immunisation and malaria prevention by visiting schools and community groups.
Unwanted medical equipment from a number of hospitals across Yorkshire was donated to the Rotary group in preparation for their trip.
Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust stepped in to help by donating more than £250,000 worth of medical equipment.
But John would like to raise an extra £5,000 before he sets off.
He said: “I would love to buy some beds.
“I saw when I was there that they sometimes have three or four patients in each bed because they don’t have enough.
“A lot of the beds had no mattresses on them and if they did, there were no covers.
“I would love to refurbish the maternity ward if I could raise the extra £5,000.”
Anyone wishing to donate funds should contact John on 01484 421032.