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How NPR covered the missionary who ran a center for malnourished kids where 105 died

In 2019, NPR covered the story of Renee Bach, an American missionary who said she was called by God to serve the children of Uganda. Now HBO is presenting her story in the documentary series <em>White Savior.</em>
Julia Rendleman for NPR
In 2019, NPR covered the story of Renee Bach, an American missionary who said she was called by God to serve the children of Uganda. Now HBO is presenting her story in the documentary series White Savior.

In 2019, NPR published a story about Renee Bach, an American missionary who opened a clinic in Uganda to treat malnourished children.

The headline: "American With No Medical Training Ran Center For Malnourished Ugandan Kids. 105 Died."

Now HBO is airing a three-part documentary on Bach, premiering on September 26. The title is: Savior Complex. HBO states that the documentary will examine "missionary work in Uganda, where an American is accused of causing the death of vulnerable Ugandan children by dangerously treating them despite having no medical training."

In the NPR story, correspondent Nurith Aizenman detailed how Bach had volunteered at a missionary-run orphanage in Uganda for 9 months, came home to Virginia and then at age 19 returned to Uganda to set up her own charity – it felt like a calling from God, she told NPR in an interview.

She named her charity "Serving His Children," began providing free hot meals to neighborhood children and says she got a call from a staffer at the local children's hospital asking if she could help out with several severely malnourished children.

NPR's story covers those efforts at Bach's center – and interviews specialists who told us that treating malnourished children is a risky proposition because of their extremely vulnerable state.

Read the story here.

A year later, we published a follow-up on the settlement of a lawsuit filed by two Ugandan parents whose children died at Bach's center: "Bach was being sued by Gimbo Zubeda, whose son Twalali Kifabi was one of those children, as well as by Kakai Annet, whose son Elijah Kabagambe died at home soon after treatment by the charity.

"Under the agreement ... Bach and the charity — Serving His Children — have jointly agreed to pay about $9,500 to each of the mothers, with no admission of liability."

NPR reached out to Bach and her lawyers this week for any updates. Bach referred us to her lawyers, who did not respond.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.

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