A Chinese specialist under the watchful eyes of his two assistants inserts needles into Zerida Kyokusiima’s back. Every needle inserted into the 52-year-old woman’s body here at the China Uganda Friendship Hospital gives hope that the excruciating back pain she has endured over the last two years is coming to an end.
The acupuncturist, Li Xiaobin, is part of a seven-man Chinese medical team on a one-year tour of duty at the 100-bed China Uganda Friendship Hospital. China has since 1983 been sending medical specialists, among them acupuncturists, to Uganda in efforts to boost health care provision in the east African country.
The acupuncture clinic is held twice a week with dozens of patients queuing for the service. Li is alone and hopes that his assistants, who are interns at the hospital, will grasp the skill and take on the practice even long after he’s gone.
“I have taught them a lot of basic knowledge about Chinese traditional medicine,” Li said. “I feel satisfied because I can use the acupuncture technology to help Uganda people and to relieve their pain. So it is a meaningful job for me.”
Justine Kirabo, one of Li’s interns, said looking at the turnout at the clinic, more Ugandans are increasingly embracing acupuncture, especially the elderly who have back pains, leg pains, and knee pains, among others.
“With this acupuncture, patients will be able to relieve much more pain than being given pain killers,” Kirabo said, noting that some patients have challenges swallowing tablets.
Next to Kyokusiima’s bed is Betty Kwagala, also suffering from backache. After Kwagala’s 30-minute session, she beams with a smile saying this was his fourth session and she feels much better.
“I was put on a lot of medication but it did not help. So my doctor told me to come here so that the Chinese can treat me using acupuncture and I feel the difference,” Kwagala said.
Emmanuel Tugaineyo, Director of China-Uganda Friendship Hospital said acupuncture just like any other form of alternative or traditional medicine is increasingly getting prominence. He said the alternative medicine is complementary to the Western medicine that is widely practiced in Uganda.
Tugaineyo said that in China, Traditional Chinese Medicine is practiced as a complimentary to Western medicine, and in Uganda use of traditional medicine is gaining momentum.