Doctor's 10-day tropical charity challenge with popstar Peter Andre
A NAILSEA doctor is going on a 10-day charity bike ride with pop star Peter Andre around a tropical island in the Indian Ocean.
For GP Jon Rees this will be his third sponsored bike ride for the Health Improvement Project Zanzibar (HIPZ), but his first pedalling with a famous face as part of the team.
Despite its idyllic setting life expectancy on the island is just 47 years and before the charity was set up one in 180 women died in childbirth.
HIPZ is responsible for the health and well-being of nearly a quarter of a million people living on the impoverished archipelago 40km off the coast of Tanzania, East Africa.
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Reality television star Peter Andre, 39, got involved when he was operated on by HIPZ founder and consultant surgeon Ru MacDonagh at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.
Dr Rees said: "There will be 36 of us on the 60km a day bumpy bike ride in June, including Peter Andre who is a good friend of Ru MacDonagh.
"Pete was operated on by Ru a few years ago and has subsequently become a supporter and patron of HIPZ and last year he travelled out to Zanzibar himself to see our work with an ITV4 film crew in tow."
Dr MacDonagh performed emergency surgery on Peter in 2010 to remove kidney stones which nearly forced him to cancel his 38-date Revelation tour.
Dr Rees, who is based at Nailsea's Brockway Medical Centre, has helped to raise £80,000 to start a maternity service in a rural area of the island which had little medical care for mothers in labour.
With friends he took that total to more than £100,000 when in 2011 seven cyclists went on another sponsored bike ride from London to Paris.
Dr Rees said: "Although there is a sense of paradise on the Indian Ocean Spice Island with its white beaches and coral reef lagoon, half the population live below the poverty line and malnutrition affects an estimated one in three people."
The 40-year-old GP became involved with the Makunduchi Project and a trustee when he worked at the Taunton hospital, with Dr MacDonagh having previously done his surgical training in Zanzibar.
He said: "The money we raised has been used during the past three years to continue our work in collaboration with the Zanzibar government who still pay staff salaries and running costs.
"It is a public private partnership and has been instrumental in allowing us to set up a comprehensive maternity and ambulance service for the rural villages. This has transformed maternity care in the Makunduchi region and as a result there were no maternal deaths in 2011.
"We've also got surgical services allowing simple operations such as hernia repairs and appendicectomies, a children's ward, outpatients department and dental unit.
"We have a primary health care unit which is seeing more than 2,000 patients a month. This is all taking place in a hospital that was severely dysfunctional when HIPZ took over.
"As a result of the success at Makunduchi hospital, the Zanzibar government asked HIPZ to take over the running of Kivunge hospital in the north of Zanzibar which serves 180,000 people."
Dr Rees and his wife Seema, also 40, and a GP in Portishead, have three children – Krishan, three, and ten-year-old twins Kamran and Jaya and the family live in Bristol.
Dr Rees added: "I am always raising money for HIPZ as I believe passionately in what it is trying to achieve. I have yet to meet Peter Andre in person but I am really looking forward to it. I watched his fact-finding film about HIPZ's work in Zanzibar with great interest."
Dr Rees has received support from London PR company VCCP, various small charitable trusts and Rotarians at Backwell, Nailsea and Portishead who have funded specialist anaesthetic machines for both hospitals and paid for maternity and surgical medical equipment.
To sponsor Dr Rees, visit www.just giving.com/Jon-Rees2