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.