Friday, May 25, 2007

Cancer in Africa II

The ex-colonial power has been running its neo-colonialist Africa television channel here for 24 hours a day for several years. Today it took a programme from the television service of another ex-colony, much much larger than ours, and interviewed an African oncologist, working in his own country.

He certainly tried to explain as he best could to the general public the ins-and-outs of white blood counts and regretted that a haematologist had not also been invited on the programme. He described the limited facilities in his country. A country with a population of 14.5 million, a geographical area of 1.25 million square kilometres and only two hospitals in the capital city that can treat cancer.

Meanwhile the BBC here discusses a Medecins Sans Frontieres report (and press release) bemoaning the vast shortages of medical staff in Africa (albeit in the context of HIV/AIDS but it applies to all areas of medical care). It cites, for example, the fact that in 2005 in Malawi only 44 nurses qualified whilst 86 left the country. The shortage of doctors has led the head of MSF in South Africa to suggest that nurses be given the power to write prescriptions (you'd love that Dr Crippen!). The WHO recommends a minimum of 20 doctors per 100, 000 people - Lesotho has five, Malawi has two and Mozambique has 2.6. MSF points to the irony of donors loving to build new health facilities but who are unwilling to invest in the human resources to staff them and thus they stand empty.

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