After being served numerous rounds of tea, one of the nutritional surveyors brought forth a father carrying his tiny child – a baby of 4 weeks, who had been sick with diarrhea for one week, and now looked like an emaciated bird. The father sat on the edge of the pink frilly mattress, and cried while I asked questions about the baby’s illness. The father, speaking fluent French, described how days earlier he had walked 4 hours each way with the baby in search of help from the nearest health centre. The health centre had been closed, and he had returned home with the baby.
When I get to the hospital, the patient is prepared for the operating theatre, and just waiting for me to evaluate her. She is 3cm dilated – which is very early in labor – and yet her contractions have stopped. The fetal head is so high up in the pelvis that the midwife’s fingers can barely touch it – a bad sign.
Veronica Ades is an obstetrician-gynecologist on her first MSF mission in Aweil, South Sudan. She has not yet mastered the art of the pit latrine.
As the sun went down and the ridges of the Mitumba mountains turned a smoke blue, a line of mothers sat quietly on a wooden bench in front of the nurses’ station in the pediatric tent. The children lying prostrate in their laps were new admissions, too weak to protest against the nurses, who wore miner’s headlamps to help search for a vein to place a drip.
Chris Bird, a former Reuters and Guardian reporter, put down his notepad and left more than 10 years of news reporting to study medicine with the intention of returning to the front lines where he can be hands-on saving lives and alleviating the kind of suffering he once wrote about.
HIV in infants born to HIV-positive mothers is a big problem in the developing world. There are around 2 million HIV-positive children in developing countries, whereas in the United Kingdom, for example, there are just 70. So, we’ve almost got rid of this problem in the West, but in the developing world it’s a big problem.