Dreaming of a Healthier Start for Children in East Africa

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Posted on 8/20/2013


A mattress is considered a luxury in many communities in East Africa, but you can help change that.
A mattress is considered a luxury in many communities in East Africa, but you can help change that.

When most people go to sleep, they lie down in their beds without thinking about how much of a luxury it is. Many children in East African countries, however, are forced to sleep on piles of rags on a hard floor. Not only is this uncomfortable, but it puts these children at risk of parasites, bug bites and accompanying diseases.

Facing a Significant Mattress Shortage

Across East Africa, particularly in Ethiopia and Uganda, mattresses and beds are considered luxuries for children and their families living in poverty. Unfortunately, when children sleep on the floor, they are more likely to be bitten by bugs and attract dangerous parasites. This can often lead to diseases like trypanosomiasis, or African sleeping sickness, which is transmitted through tsetse flies, according to the World Health Organization. The disease, which affects the central nervous system, is usually complex to treat, meaning children and families living in rural areas with inadequate health care often have little chance of survival.

Still, homes are not the only places where East Africans suffer from a shortage of beds, as hospitals there also lack an sufficient number of beds, a visible symbol of the scarcity of health care in the region. In Uganda, the situation is so grave that many hospital patients are forced to sleep on the floor due to a bed shortage. In 2010, the country had only 0.5 hospital beds for every 1,000 people, the CIA World Factbook states.

In the United States, there were three beds for every 1,000, and Germany, another developed country, had 8.2 beds for every 1,000 people. These numbers also represent a shortage of hospital beds, but Uganda has more demands on its health care system, with pervasive diseases and illnesses.

Last summer, Uganda's Kabale Hospital's maternity ward, which has only 32 beds, was so crowded that expectant mothers and their attendants slept on the floor in the ward, Uganda Radio Network reported. At the same time, Mbale Regional Referral Hospital is also grappling with bed shortages, according to the Daily Monitor. When the hospital was built, it was designed to serve 11 districts. Today, however, it treats patients from the entire eastern region of Uganda, which has a population of more than 2.5 million. With so many patients to treat on a daily basis, there are frequently more people sleeping on the floor than in one of the hospital's 400 beds.

Giving the Gift of Hope

If you want to help East African children start their lives in a healthy way, consider donating a mattress through our Gifts of Love & Hope catalog. For $39, you can provide a mattress for a child in Ethiopia or Uganda. However, the impact you will make does not end with that child. Because each mattress will be shared by at least two siblings, you can ensure that you are helping multiple members of a family ward off disease and get a better night's sleep, which is crucial to good health. Additionally, the mattresses are made locally, which means your donation will also make a positive impact on the local economy.

Please consider purchasing a mattress or another gift through our Gifts of Love & Hope catalog to help us fight child poverty and ensure that children around the world can get the start they need to live happy, healthy and productive lives.