A HIGHLY-acclaimed Suffolk charity that has supplied hundreds of tonnes of life-saving equipment to developing countries is being forced to close.

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Aid to Hospitals Worldwide (A2HW) is due to cease its activities next month with the loss of seven jobs.

Bosses say the Bury St Edmunds-based organisation has experienced difficulties because hospitals are now conserving their equipment and auctioning high-end items.

Chief executive officer Mike Coleman said as a result, the value of the aid they were able to recover to support projects abroad has become less viable – especially in the light of increased shipping costs.

He added: “We are very sad we have to close, but times and conditions change. I am particularly sad for our dedicate staff and the many volunteers who gave their time. But I hope they will always remember how together, in 10 short years, we benefitted millions of the world’s poorest people.”

Mr Coleman said that a recent appeal to fund a new warehouse had failed to reach its targets.

He added: “Everyone is hurting. It is with real sadness that we have taken this decision. But no-one – staff, volunteers or those who supported us – should lose sight of the health-enhancing work A2HW has done over the last decade. It has literally been a lifeline to millions.”

The charity, based at West Suffolk Hospital’s old site, has recovered, refurbished and consigned more than 800 tones of medical equipment and sundries to 56 different countries.

Items supplied include instruments for complex surgery, beds, X-rays, scanners and incubators.

The charity, which was awarded the British Chamber of Commerce UK accolade for Sustainability 2011, has also supplied bikes for district nurses and mobility aids such as wheelchairs.

As part of its work it has mentored and educated vulnerable adults, helped those with learning difficulties and welcomed students on work experience schemes.

Mr Coleman paid tribute to more than 100 volunteers that have given their time to the organisation.

He added: ”A2HW acknowledges the huge debt it owes to West Suffolk Hospital for its help and support for the work, especially in providing premises.”

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