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  • Writer's pictureMarlene Kawira

Whispers of Health: A Childhood Tale from Africa

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

This story is kindly written and shared by our programme monitoring, evaluation and communications consultant and colleague Marlene. Having delved deeply into understanding the impact of Worldwide Radiology’s work over the past few months, Marlene is keen to share her own take on why imaging is so important to children, especially in countries where it isn’t readily available to most.

Today, I'm taking you on a stroll down the lanes of my childhood in Africa, where the sun was hot, the games were wild, and health was a luxury we couldn't always afford.

In the backyard of Ubuntu, playing outside was given, but health was also a complex character. Seeking help meant navigating a financial maze with our parents, who were already grappling with putting food on the table, and couldn't easily navigate extra expenses.

Thanks to organisations like WHO and the Ministry of Health, children under 1 year can access free immunizations at public medical facilities (this may vary across different African countries).

But that doesn’t make access to quality healthcare any easier. The public hospitals and clinics still remain few and logistically or economically costly to access. To most of our parents, medical insurance still remains a mystery to most of them up to date.

I'll confess, more than once, my siblings and I formed a secret pact—keep injuries hidden until they became too unbearable. The consequence? A dual punishment of pain and a scolding for not reporting sooner. But similar cases in our community of remaining silent when sick or injured or lack of seeking timely treatment had very adverse effects on some children in our community because some children had lost their limbs and some succumbed to very deadly infections.

I remember one particular instance when I dislocated my arm at the age of 4 and we had to travel almost 80km with my mother and grandma before we could get access to an x-ray machine so that the doctor could determine how to best treat my dislocated arm which we initially thought was broken. Travelling that distance requires logistical funds and when you get to the doctor there are consultation fees, x-ray fees, treatment fees and some painkillers (all unbudgeted).

Fast forward to my 12-year-old self, navigating the premature arrival of our youngest sibling. Hospital visits became a part of our routine, and the point-of-care ultrasound became our compass in the fog of uncertainty, guiding us before our sibling could utter a word.

Being an African child meant learning a few unwritten rules: health wasn't part of the budget, silence was the norm in the face of pain, and seeking treatment came with its own share of scoldings. But infants with unclear symptoms? That was a direct ticket to the doctor's office.

By sharing my personal story, I want to highlight the challenges faced by individuals in accessing quality paediatric healthcare in certain African communities. From the financial maze of seeking basic healthcare to the dire consequences of remaining silent about illnesses or injuries, I hope that my story underscores the urgent need for improved access to quality healthcare services.

You have an opportunity to improve children’s access to imaging

Between 28 Nov and 5 Dec, we are running the Big Give Christmas Challenge to raise £10,000 to train 8 paediatricians in Ghana in the use of bedside ultrasound (POCUS).

Your donation will be doubled, making it a gift that echoes louder. By supporting the campaign, you can contribute to helping break the barriers that hinder timely and adequate medical care for children in communities facing similar difficulties.

What is bedside ultrasound?

Point-of-care bedside imaging technique (POCUS) can be used to diagnose and monitor various medical conditions in children. It is especially useful in emergency cases, where rapid diagnosis and treatment are critical.

POCUS can help overcome the challenges of limited access to medical imaging facilities and trained personnel. However, there are several challenges that need to be addressed to ensure the effective implementation of POCUS in paediatric care in Africa.

Join us in this narrative of health, where every penny counts. Let's empower healthcare warriors, give children swift diagnoses, and a chance at a healthier tomorrow.

You can learn more about POCUS and how we are training healthcare workers in Ghana by watching this video:

* Donations will be doubled until we reach our target of £10,000


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