By - Tobi Idowu
One of the often celebrated stories is the humanism of foreign nationals, importantly named expatriates, or even missionaries, who come to Africa ostensibly to offer desperately needed help to suffering Africans, whom their governments have refused to cater for, even after many years of self governance. These life-gift bearers acting on God’s instructions, as prominent African writer, Chinua Achebe would say, would then, having settled in their chosen lucky African villages, begin to perform different miracles of health, of education; of all panacean sorts.
It ought to be stated that, there a lot of humanitarians, who usually come to Africa under the auspices of ‘internationally recognized’ Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), who have proved, even justified, their mission on the continent to some satisfactory degree. A lot more, however, have left a lot of questions that need answers. One of such questions is the continued use of poverty porn to gain undeserved acclaim for humanitarian cause. Another is the all-knowing tilt of some of these aid workers, which often lead to avoidable human casualties.
Unskilled American Renee Bach in Uganda
Take for example the case of the American ‘expatriate’ woman, Renee Bach, who set up a malnutrition clinic in Uganda to treat starving children, but who has since been sued by two mothers that claimed she has caused or contributed to more than 100 babies’ deaths by giving them wrong medical treatment. They further buttressed their claim that Ms. Bach had no medical training, although she worked as if she were a doctor in her clinic.
According to a UK newspaper, Mirror, in High Court documents filed by mothers Gimbo Zubeda and Kakai Annet they claimed they brought their children to the facility after being given the impression Ms Bach was a trained medical professional.
Their lawsuit claimed Ms Bach would walk around wearing a stethoscope and white coat. Ms Annet, who gave birth at the clinic in 2017, said her newborn was ‘snatched’ by Bach and the clinic and the baby subsequently died.
Ms Annet said, ‘My son – Elijah Benjamin – would be two years old today had he been alive. I delivered him at Jinja Hospital on 21 January, 2017. ‘I feel his life was snatched from my arms by the actions of Ms. Renee Bach.’
The women only discovered that Bach was not a doctor after their children’s deaths and have begun to clamour that her clinic is shut down and they are given damages. Notably, it has been revealed that Bach’s clinic had once been closed in 2015 by The Department of Health, but curiously she continued operating and admitting patients.
The Women’s Probono Initiative, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the women, said: ‘When their children died, they were told that Ms. Renee has no training at all in medicine and that in 2015, the District Health Officer had closed her facility and ordered her to not offer any treatment to any child.’
‘The mothers allege that they were led to believe that Ms. Renee Bach was a “medical doctor” and that her home was a “medical facility” as she was often seen wearing a white coat, a stethoscope and often administered medications to children in her care.’
Further accusations against Ms Bach range from untoward practices to charge of sending children home after ‘fattening them up’ without making sure it was safe to do so, according to MailOnline.
Her defence and more accusations
Once when allegations were made against Ms Bach in 2018 and gained some considerable media traction via NBS, she admitted that she had no medical training, but claimed that the most she ever did to treat a child was give them an IV.
In response to the allegations at the time, her “Serving His Children clinic” said, ‘At no time has our founder, Renee Bach, presented herself as a medical professional, experimented on or caused the death of any child.
‘Having been trained by medical professionals to start IVs, Ms. Bach has in the past provided assistance in such procedures when requested and currently serves in an administrative capacity and participates in fundraising for the organisation.’
Some of her critics, though, insisted, she provided medical services she was not qualified to do. In fact, a group called “No White Saviors,” which has been campaigning for Bach’s facility to be shut down for months, revealed in an article published on Medium by one of its members last year, that Bach was giving children ‘oxygen’ and other medical treatment and even wrote about them in now deleted blog posts.
The author of the Medium report, although not named, described themselves as a white, American volunteer, who claimed to have met Bach in 2014.
‘Initially, I admired Renee for her sacrifice and tireless commitment to children battling malnutrition. ‘It was not until January 2014 that my perspective really started to change,’ they wrote.
They went on to describe how Mach administered a treatment on a boy which later resulted in fatality. She ‘got him fat and healthy and then sent him home without so much as any consideration for the root cause of his malnutrition.’
‘There was no follow up, so he fell sick again, so sick that his body was not able to come back from it this time,’ she wrote.
The author also wrote on how Bach had also been practicing medicine on babies despite not having any medical training. ‘She had medical professionals on staff but she herself, with no medical training, chose to actively treat and respond to serious medical needs of children in crisis.’
Similar patterns across Africa
Ms Bach’s case is not peculiar. Many of such cases abound all over the continent but have been muffled due to some strange inattention of the media, both local and foreign. One of the reasons often attributed for this unfortunate indifference is the profiteering connivance of the foreign aid workers, NGOs and their local collaborators. These people would then suppress stories – often they befriend proprietors and editors of big media companies – that would call attention to their unwholesome activities in the places they claim they are giving aid to.
As it is often the case, though, it is the people, who badly need help, that still suffer the consequences of the fatal help that their foreign friends, in league with local enablers, offer. Boko Haram terrorist war in Nigeria continues to be fought, it has been argued, because it pays the NGOs (both foreign and local) and some profiteering local people. It is a cash cow that must continue to live, for these ‘helpers.’ That is why, it has also been said, that the number of NGOs in relation to the terrorist war continues to swell. Lot of them have been found out as bogus, non-existent platforms; and, if they do exist, they are made of unqualified, or quack professionals who render services that run contrary to their professed mission. Unsuspecting victims then meet their fatal doom in the hands of these quacks and quasi-quacks, apology to Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka.
A lot of auditing of the activities of the many NGOs and, especially independent aid missionaries, on the continent need to be done, in order to ascertain the genuineness of their works. There should be set standards of engagement set by governments, or else more victims would fall into the hands of unscrupulous help givers. More so, the consequence of a bad name got from few insincere aid givers might detract from the good works and intentions of the credible NGOs and independent missionaries. In this light, the credible ones too need to collaborate with and reach out to African governments on ways to remove the bad eggs among them.
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