I left for the clinic early today as I wanted to meet with the staff working night shift. The most interesting and concerning part of the trip was the walk to the hospital. Usually there are people going about their daily business, selling fruit on the roadside, a man mending shoes from a shop front and donkey carts laden with family members or sacks travelling down the dusty dirt road. This morning the streets were empty save several children going through rubbish pits on the side of the road. They were looking for cardboard for their fires to make dinner and plastic bottles to reuse. They each had sacks which they were busily filling. They took a moment to stop and stare as I walked by then went back to their morning ritual.
It’s sad to see these children having to go through garbage just to get by. There are schools in the area, both public and private. However, most families can’t afford private schooling and having your children work is a more viable option then sending your children to school. This results in the majority of children not receiving an education and staggeringly high illiteracy rates.
Although I haven’t been here long there is an obvious pattern with many of the critically ill patients we receive. A lot of these very sick patients have first been to see a doctor at a private clinic. Unfortunately many of the 'doctors' in these clinics aren’t actually doctors at all and haven’t received any medical training. This results in the patients getting the wrong treatment for a protracted amounted of time and the familes spending money that they can’t afford. The patients either come to us once the families realize that they aren’t getting any better or the private clinic will send them in once it is obvious that they can do no more. However this is often too late and the children we received are in dire straits.
In most cases if a malnourished child is received into the feeding program early enough we can see them to a healthy weight and give them a good chance at life. It is satisfying to see little children receive their first packet of plumpy nut and hastily swallow it down with a smile and just as good to see them steadily gaining weight. I’m glad I can be part of such a dedicated team helping these kids to a healthier beginning.