Scotland

Resurge Africa expands into Mali and Sierra Leone

John Bortey before and after his surgery
Image caption Reconstructive surgery can transform the lives of people such as John Bortey

A Scottish charity that has changed the lives of thousands of people in Ghana over the past 15 years is to expand into other West African countries.

More than 50 Scottish surgeons donate their time and expertise to ReSurge Africa.

It has carried out reconstructive surgery on more than 50,000 Ghanaians affected by burns or deformity.

Abnormalities, particularly facial disfigurement, carry a severe social stigma in many African countries.

As a result, they can have a significant impact on both the personal and working lives of those affected.

Many children find themselves outcasts from their own community - and even from their own family - and as a result, they have little hope of finding work and are often forced to live on the perimeters of society.

ReSurge was until recently known as International Reconstructive Plastic Surgery, which was founded in 1993 as the vision of Dr Jack Mustarde.

He discovered on a visit to Ghana that there were no trained burns or reconstructive surgeons in the country, which has a population of more than 16 million.

Since then, some 50,000 people affected by burns or deformity have attended the charity's hospital and more than 10,000 operations have been performed.

Many patients spend days travelling to the unit in the country's capital Accra.

The charity now hopes to extend and develop its services into other countries in West Africa, including Mali and Sierra Leone.

The team is headed by Martyn Webster, one of Scotland's top reconstructive surgeons.

He said: "This name change represents the evolution of the charity since its inception and the direction in which we are heading, to ensure the training programme is firmly in place and to support the establishment of new hospitals in other areas of Africa such as Sierra Leone.

"Core training is essential to the future of our efforts and we are proactively working towards seeing the hospital through to standing on its own two feet. As we have said all along - our success will be our demise.

"Many of the operations we carry out are for cleft palate correction which is a simple and straightforward procedure. Yet for those affected, it is the difference between a future of family and employment or living on the edge of society where their opportunities are significantly limited."

The charity has raised more than £3m over the past 15 years, with 95% of all donations going directly to the work of the charity.

Seriously disfigured

Among the thousands of people successfully treated by the charity was John Bortey, whose face and head were ravaged by the bone wasting disease, Noma.

Noma is characteristic of malnourishment and is known as "the face of poverty".

He was lucky to survive as 90% of the hundreds of thousands of people, most of them children, who contract the disease annually in sub-Saharan Africa die very quickly from it.

Like the few other Noma survivors, John was seriously disfigured, was unable to speak, eat or breathe normally and was treated as a social outcast.

Resurge Africa has also unveiled BBC Scotland broadcaster Sally McNair as its new patron.

Ms McNair said: "If a child here is scalded by a kettle or burned by a pan, we rush them to A&E and get them the best care in the world.

"In West Africa there simply aren't the trained medics, so such an injury can wreck a life.

"ReSurge Africa is training doctors there how to cope with these injuries - and giving thousands of people their lives back."

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