Director of Finance takes a Busman's Holiday

Scadbury Ward team shot
Scadbury Ward, winner of the 2011 Staff Recognition Awards for Having a User Focus

The trust’s Director of Finance, Richard Page recently took a bit of a busman’s holiday – in Uganda.

He has been appointed as Trustee and Treasurer of the Malaria Consortium. This is a leading Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) in the battle to control and eliminate malaria. Malaria is the communicable disease that causes the largest number of deaths worldwide. And Richard spent a week of his holiday visiting village health workers, clinics and hospitals in Uganda.

Malaria Consortium was formed six years ago from the malaria research co-operation between the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Liverpool Fever Hospital. It has rapidly grown from three to over 350 staff. This will grow further with recent new funding from USAid, Canadian, Irish and British government funded projects, Comic Relief and the Bill Gates Foundation. Richard’s task will be to ensure financial viability and governance to maximise the benefit of this growth. Malaria Consortium’s Board of Trustees is an impressive combination of clinical, development, financial and governance expertise.

Richard said: I have lived and worked in several African countries and have seen the effect of malaria, and experienced being hospitalised with it. My wife used to work for the Medical Research Council trying to find a vaccine for it and even after decades of research they are no nearer finding one. So I was only too happy to join Malaria Consortium as a trustee when I was recently approached about it. It works in many African and Asian countries researching into malaria control techniques, funding training of primary care workers in villages and clinics and supplying Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs).”

Richard arrived in Uganda the day after some serious rioting in Kampala and then flew north to the arid region of Karamoja, which is an area just south of Sudan that has experienced armed conflict for the past 20 years. He said: “When we flew by light ‘plane into the airstrip at Kotido we were met by an armed guard. The security briefing we got from the local District Commissioner and police chief was that the position had improved – there had not been an armed ambush on the road into town for a week! This didn’t sound too comforting to me. This had been the area where the Lord’s Resistance Army had been active and there was a lot of cattle rustling. This sounds quaint until you realise that they use AK47s and we saw quite a few of these around.”

The sister at the local mission hospital confirmed that the security position was much improved as it was a few weeks since their ambulance had been shot at!

Malaria Consortium was distributing LLINs through the maternity work of this hospital and was supporting the training of village health and education workers. This was particularly difficult as much of the population are nomadic herders. However the effect of this consistent community based work was evident. In the birthing clinic there had not been a malaria induced miscarriage for quite a time, nor any malaria based infant mortality. There were more problems in getting this level of protection for home births.

The next place visited was in western Uganda. “This was completely different” Richard said, “instead of semi desert and failed crops, there was green tropical lushness. But the health problems were still there in the villages. We saw the start of a Comic Relief funded project (watch the Comic Relief report programme in December to see the progress with this project).This is an intensive primary care training programme for village health workers, with LLIN distribution, support for laboratory diagnostics, along with evidence based data to evaluate the results.”

Richard said that he would get great pleasure in being part of an organisation that achieved what his wife’s work failed to do, but being one up on Jane was nothing compared to being one up on the mosquito.

To find out more about this work visit the Malaria Consortium website.

Large photo

Outside a clinic in Uganda. Richard Page is pictured on the far left.

Published on 22nd October 2009