An American Christian missionary serving in Uganda denied accusations last week that her actions led to the deaths of at least two children in her care.
The Women’s Probono Initiative filed a lawsuit against Renee Bach, 35, and her medical ministry, Serving His Children, at a high court in the Jinja district on Jan. 21 on behalf of two Ugandan mothers, Gimbo Zubeda and Kakai Annet. The women claim Serving His Children led to the deaths of “hundreds of babies” and demand the center cease operations and award damages to the affected families.
The case is only now receiving international attention amid increasing outrage over what’s called “white saviorism” in Africa missions. In October, the Liberian government launched an investigation after several girls were assaulted while in the care of a U.S. charity that set out to provide education for children in a local slum.
Bach, a Virginia native, served as a missionary in Uganda when she was a teenager and returned to set up Serving His Children in Masese in 2009. The nonprofit group says it works to treat children battling severe acute malnutrition while “providing health education, teaching effective agriculture methods, sharing the gospel, and bringing communities together.”
According to court documents, the two mothers said they believed Bach was a medical doctor at the facility, noting, “She was often seen wearing a white coat, a stethoscope, and often administered medications to children in her care.”
The women learned Bach had no medical training after their children died. The district health officer temporarily closed the facility and ordered it not to offer any treatment in 2015, the documents added.
“There are procedural and regulatory mechanisms that ought to be followed when establishing a medical facility in Uganda,” said Beatrice Kayaga, an officer with the Women’s Probono Initiative. “It is unacceptable, narcissistic behavior for anyone, black or white, rich or poor, missionary or angel, to pass off as a ‘medical practitioner’ when they are not.”
Another organization, called No White Saviors, made similar accusations against Bach. The group said it recovered blog posts that were removed after the 2015 probe. In some of the posts, Bach acknowledged people called her the “White Doctor” and recounted how she diagnosed one child with malaria.
A statement from the National Center for Life and Liberty (NCLL), which is representing Bach, said the facility only hires licensed doctors and nurses to provide healthcare and works with local healthcare facilities and community leaders. NCLL admitted Bach worked alongside medical professionals but said she learned the skills necessary to assist in crisis situations. The statement said one of the children mentioned in the lawsuit was treated at the center when Bach was out of the country, while the other never received treatment at Serving His Children.
“These sensational allegations are patently false and fail to recognize the 3,600 malnourished children who have recovered because of the care and treatment provided by Serving His Children,” NCLL’s statement said.
In an interview on Fox News last week, Bach acknowledged she had a “white savior complex” when she first arrived in Uganda but called the accusations disappointing. “I am proud to say that through the growth of Serving His Children and personal growth, I realized I wasn’t even needed in Uganda for the programs to operate, and [they] were completely Ugandan-led and nationally run,” she said. “I’m willing to stand for the organization and the work we’ve done there,” she said.