07 August 2007

Darfur Blog

Dr Neil Fletcher in Africa: Malnourished child in east Chad

The Health Centre today resembles a cattle market. There are people everywhere. Children crying everywhere. I do a quick triage of women and children sitting on a large collection of mats outside. Right at the back of the queue I notice a little baby that looks very poorly indeed. I usher both mother and child through to my (grim) consulting room. My seat is a chair made of straw. It looks about 30 years old and I'm sure would provide many exciting hours of study for a Microbiologist and his petri dishes! The back of the chair consists of a grubby piece of rope holding together two wooden legs. The baby is nine months old and looks very marasmic and wasted. Just a thin layer of skin covers her ribs. I put a MUAC (mid-upper arm circumference) bracelet on her and it reads ''red- severely malnourished''. Her whole body is moist with beads of sweat. I give her one week's supply of Plumpinut. This is a high-energy ready-to-eat French product that is stuffed with calories and nutrients. In addition I give Mum a mosquito net and a prescription for a collossal dose of Vitamin A, Measles jab, rehydration solution and antibiotics. This child really needs to be admitted and watched by nurses like a hawk. But we just don't have the human resources or capacity. She has her treatment and takes her chances. I arrange to review her tomorrow and spend a great deal of time and effort giving the Mum advice. She is this baby's only nurse. I also insist that Mum doesn't sell the Plumpinut on the market or feed it to her other kids. This does, unbelievably, commonly happen. Mum gives me her word and I fast track her to the front of the pharmacy queue. Onto the next patient.......
Ever wondered what life must be like for the aid workers trying to help Darfur's refugees and internally displaced people? Médecins-Sans-Frontières doctor Neil Fletcher recently started working in Eastern Chad and is keeping a diary online at www.drfletcherinafrica.co.uk