Written on 27-07-2012
Walking the streets of Addis Ababa finding strong Ethiopian coffee and a veg sandwich late afternoon still perturbed by so many beggars. A woman with little stumps for fingers stretched out towards me, another half curled under her blanket but a hand held in anticipation and thankful eyes as her hand closes over the Birr or two. But never ending.
‘Daniel’ guides me to a table and as I sit he pulls a chair closer and joins me. He speaks good English, tells me he used to be a tour guide. ‘Your accent sounds German’ he says which people often say to me with my South African background. And when my coffee and sandwich arrives he politely excuses himself. His knowledge of English, his sensitivity in stark contrast to his clothes which speaks of utter poverty.
The last sip of the bitter and black and good coffee and I got up. Daniel appeared again. ‘Can I walk with you’ and he tells me of his wife, his two children. Wanted to know about my visit to Ethiopia. ‘My daughter of three has diarrhoea, now for four days. Herbal medicine did not help. At the pharmacy it costs 31.50 Birr (US $ 1.85). I cannot afford it. To take her to hospital can easily cost 500 Birr (US $29.41). I’m worried, she is not getting better’ He earns 475 Birr (US $ 27.94) per month at the restaurant as a casual guiding people off the street to a table. His wife 500 Birr per month (US $29.41).
‘I don’t know what to do,’ Daniel says.
The story of Africa. Limited healthcare and what is available unaffordable to the majority of the population.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends an absolute minimum of 1 physician per 10 000 people in developing countries
1 physician per 355 people
1 physician per 500 people
< 1 physician per 20 000 people and in the public sector 1 physician per 120 000 people (an impossible situation)
And for surgeons the WHO recommends a minimum of 1 surgeon per 20 000 people in developing countries
1 surgeon per 2272 people
1 surgeon per 9090 people
1 surgeon per 1.6M people (44 surgeon for approximately 90M people)
A gross imbalance.
And it is in our hands to do something to relieve this desperate need.
PAACS (www.paacs.net) aims to train 20 surgeons per year in Africa.
There are two primary choices in life; to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them. What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?
For the innovative willing spirit there are so many ways to help