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Doctors and Health Workers Answering the Call in Sub Saharan Africa

In a recent compelling  article in The New York Times, Celia Dugger describes a growing movement in the U.S. of young American doctors and health workers who are going to Africa to help heal sick and dying men, women, and children. Describing a “surging interest” among Americans drawn to Africa to try and do something about the HIV/AIDS and other epidemics ravaging the continent, Dugger writes about a young pediatrician from Savannah, Georgia, who is now working for the Lesotho government health system–only the second pediatrician to do so in this southern African country.   “If this was the last thing I did, if this was the only job I ever had in life, I would have served my purpose,” he said.

Sub Saharan Africa has only 3 percent of the world’s health care workers and 25 percent of disease burden. This burden includes 22 million people living with HIV/AIDS, one child in five dying from malaria, one woman in 16 dying during pregnancy or childbirth, and 750 thousand new cases of tuberculosis every year. Many Aid for Africa member organizations are part of the effort to provide needed health care services in rural clinics, to HIV-positive women, and in government hospitals.  Three are described below.

The Touch Foundation is helping to rebuild the Bugando Medical Center in western Tanzania and is currently training 900 new health care workers.  Doctors on Call for Service Foundation links volunteer U.S. physicians with African national physicians to help them expand their skills and to improve and expand healthcare in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship was founded to support the Nobel Peace Laureate Albert Schweitzer and his hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon, West Africa.  The Schweitzer Hospital– a world leader in the fight against malaria, the leading killer of African children– serves as the primary source of health care for the surrounding region.  The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship sends senior U.S. medical students, known as Schweitzer Fellows, to work at the hospital each year.

The commitment of the men and women serving these organizations in Africa, like that of the doctor from Georgia, is nothing less than astounding.

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