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Sport Relief - No One Really Likes Hospitals, Do They?

Posted: 22/03/2012 23:00

I mean they can be fine to look at and the people who work in them are often fantastic, but they are by definition tough places to be.

Mutago Hospital in the Ugandan capital of Kampala is a case in point.

A network of covered walkways connect the different wards and straight away you get the sense that this is a clean and friendly place which, for the most part, feels like a hospital back home in the UK.

Until, that is, you go into the children's ward.

When we arrived early in the morning I'd imagined we would see the ward gearing up for a new day, breakfast being served, doctors and nurses checking to see the kind of night the young patients had.

I was very wrong, because what we walked into was like nothing I'd ever seen before.

As the four of us stood near the chaotic entrance waiting for the doctor to show us around, a man walked behind us carrying what looked like a bundle of blankets.

When the doctor arrived he told us that this morning, two tiny babies had already lost the fight for life. The man we had just seen was the father of one of them, carrying his child home.

What had claimed the lives of these two children was chillingly simple; a single bite from mosquito carrying malaria.

Every 45 seconds a child dies from malaria, and what we thought was a shocking start to our time on the ward is actually a daily occurrence in this part of the world.

As we all tried to process what we had just seen and heard, another baby arrived who was critically ill with malaria. I went into the emergency room as the doctors battled to stop this awful disease claiming its third child of the day.

Baby Joseph had been suffering from a fever for more than 24 hours and looked very sick - his life was in the balance.

Joseph came from a rural area, near fields and ponds where mosquitoes thrive and breed. Every night when his family put him to sleep without a bednet, they knew he could be bitten by a mosquito. If he wakes up with bites on his little body, they just pray he's not been infected with malaria.

His granddad who brought him into the hospital told me it was his first birthday the next day, and before he got sick he was a happy boy, always giggling and had just learnt to walk. When he turned on the radio Joseph had just started to dance in that cute way toddlers do.

It was hard to imagine all that with the incredibly sick little boy lying in front of me and struggling to stay alive. But he had made it to hospital and he had a chance.

As the doctors hooked him up to a transfusion and gave him drugs he needed to help him fight for his life, I watched, and waited. I thought how incredibly lucky we are to have access to anti-malarial drugs and mosquito repellent, none of which cost much money at all. But it must be a terrible feeling to have to put your kids to bed each evening, knowing that during the night they could be bitten and infected with this killer disease.

Later that day the doctors told me that little Joseph had turned the corner, he'd come through the worst of it and his spirit had helped him survive.

But without a mosquito net, children like Joseph will continue to become infected and die from this hideous and preventable disease.

That's why I'm so proud to be part of Sport Relief this year. Just five pounds can buy a mosquito net, which can protect children like Joseph from malaria. Five pounds to keep a family safe and ensure that children like Joseph don't have to needlessly suffer from this deadly, yet preventable, disease.

JLS' official Sport Relief single is out now and available to download. JLS are also taking part in the Sainsbury's Sport Relief Mile in London on Sunday. Enter now at www.sportrelief.com/mile