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At the heart of general practice since 1960

For one cremation form fee we can make 'health for all' a reality

Letter from Dr Heather Scott, Kent

I am currently a senior GP working in Thanet, Kent. However, from 1990 to 1995 my husband Richard and I worked as the only doctors in a small rural mission hospital of 100 beds in north east Tanzania. We saw firsthand the impact poverty has on health and the constraints our nursing and medical aid colleagues coped with on a day-to-day basis.

It was often hard to get hold of, or pay for basic medicines, blood transfusion kits, life saving anti malarials, basic equipment for safe deliveries, antenatal, and post natal care.

Local farming communities would try various local medical options first and come to the hospital in extreme circumstances as the last resort. We treated upwards of 450 children as ‘in patients’ per month, with mothers and siblings sharing the bed or sleeping under it at night. Sadly it was not uncommon for five to nine children to die each month, most often due to malaria and anaemia leading to heart failure.

These deaths could have been prevented with simple provision of mosquito nets, and basic education about weaning and clearing areas of standing water where mosquitoes breed.

We found that small contributions of money could make a profound impact to the work of the dedicated staff. Conversely battling to provide care with no equipment and little medicine was profoundly demoralising for healthcare professionals in difficult poor environments.

It’s only when communities start to see improved outcomes and consistent caring medical provision that confidence grows and locals trust and believe in the simple, crucial health care messages being provided. Often these improvements are simple, non expensive, practical and locally inspired.

I passionately believe that our support of our friends and colleagues still working in these rural settings is profoundly important and worthwhile. I am therefore proud to support Health Poverty Action’s ‘As One’ campaign. The campaign is really simple – just donate one cremation form fee in March to stand in solidarity with primary healthcare professionals all over the world. Richard and I know full well how hard it is to work in tough circumstances and will always stand up for colleagues who do this on a daily basis. All it takes is the equivalent of one cremation form fee to help make ‘health for all’ more than just an aspiration.

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Readers' comments (5)

  • doctordog.

    So why is Africa always wanting charity mainly from the West?
    Is it our fault or theirs?

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  • Cobblers

    Yes simple things work if the money is there. Truth is that the money is there in Africa along with the food if the governance is there. Africa lacks stability. Wars, revolutions, corruption, all contribute to this mess.

    It has been 60 years since Biafra. We now have Sudan, Somalia, Yemen to name but three current places where famine is present and the average UK Fred is asked “Just £3 a month to feed a family” in the adverts. There is giving fatigue and a sensation of peeing money up the wall.

    Perhaps if the UN could get off its collective self-serving arse and provide the governance, even at the barrel of a gun, we could have stability, save lives and improve the average African’s lot?

    Maybe after Afghanistan there is no appetite for this. At least it could be discussed in the west? Meantime people die early and unpleasantly.

    Apologies, just my pennyworth.

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  • Your work is commendable but i think people are now asking the obvious questions like why cannot the governments of these countries look after their own people. i think UK aid should be spent on providing skills and leadership in how to raise taxes from the population and how to spend the tax to provide basic healthcare and sanitation.The rest will follow. It is not rocket science.

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  • Mosquito nets are indeed useful -- so what stops the countries providing them, the problem is that aid hasn't solved their problems, indeed the money allows the Wabenzi Warlords to spend money on arms. We give foreign aid, they say that charity is taking money from the poor in the rich countries and giving to the rich of poor countries. This is becoming increasingly true.

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  • High corruption score:

    http://www.transparency.org/country/TZA

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