"My colleagues not only gave me this opportunity: they always inspired me."
On February 10, in Entebbe, Uganda, EMERGENCY NGO Founder Gino Strada and architect Renzo Piano, alongside representatives of the Ugandan government, laid down the first stone of a new project: an EMERGENCY Centre of Excellence for Paediatric Surgery, which will be built at Lake Victoria, 35 kilometers from the capital, Kampala.
The necessity of opening a centre specialising in paediatric surgery in Uganda and neighbouring countries has been emphasised by African health ministers who participate in ANME, the African Network of Medical Excellence. This is a “network of healthcare excellence in Africa”, created on EMERGENCY’s initiative in 2009. The network aims to develop a healthcare system in its member countries and bring excellent, free medical care to Africa, affirming, in practice, the right of every human being to be treated at no cost and at high-quality. The Entebbe hospital will be the second excellence centre in the network, after the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery in Khartoum, Sudan.
In Uganda, infant mortality under 5 years is 138 children per 1000 live births. Guaranteeing free surgical treatment, in this context, is a priority which will contribute to the reduction of infant mortality in Uganda and bordering countries. “Millions of children die every year simply because they have no access to health care,” explains Strada. “Lack of resources? Lack of interest in the suffering of so many? Lack of social responsibility from the governments? Or all of the above? Whatever the reason, the question remains: shall we continue to tolerate this scandal, or shall we make every effort to save or improve the lives of millions of fellow human beings?” The hospital will be a referral centre for Ugandan patients, as well as for children from across Africa, who urgently need surgery.
The Ugandan government has decided to participate actively in the project, donating the plot where the hospital is going to be built.
Renzo Piano Building Workshop has designed the hospital in collaboration with Tamassociati, with the technical and mechanical coordination of Prisma engineering and structural support of Milan Ingegneria.
“When Gino Strada asked me to participate in this new EMERGENCY challenge, I didn’t think twice and immediately said Yes!” says Piano. “This new hospital will be a model of medical excellence, environmental sustainability, energetic independence, and harmonious space distribution. We want to utilise the resources of the earth, water, and sun, the best achievements of modernity, the real ones. The hospital will be built at Lake Victoria, surrounded by nature and trees. The greenery will be the close horizon of the little guests, and the trees a metaphor for their healing process.”
The hospital will have three operating rooms and 78 beds. It will also be a training centre for young doctors and nurses from inside and around Uganda. It will be constructed with walls of rammed earth, a technique using raw materials from the ground, guaranteeing high thermal mass to maintain constant temperatures and humidity. Particular attention will be paid to ecological aspects. The centre will be covered with about 2,600 photovoltaic solar panels, to satisfy its energy needs.