Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Messiah Of Thyolo

Image from www.doctorswithoutborders.org_*

[* Image by Julie Remy, www.doctorswithoutborders.org. The caption for the image reads - "A woman living with HIV waits to see a nurse at a health center in Chiradzulu District, Malawi, so she can receive her medicine for the next month."]

A Project Crying For More Empathy And Better Management

It is hot and humid, the typical August weather in Thyolo, this small capital city of the district of the same name, in Malawi, southeastern Africa. Residents of the city, as well as from the neighboring towns of Manjolo, Muonekera, Kabombe, and Namireno, besides the others begin trooping in to the dilapidated room that calls itself the medical center. And the patient wait begins for the messiah to arrive.

Relatives waiting outside hospital, bbc UK

And when Christina Chinji, the nurse appointed by the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) walks in, there is a collective sigh of relief. For the residents, she is not an ordinary human being going about her job; she is a messiah. For, thanks to her, they are able to snatch from the jaws of certain death a few more sunrises to savor...


This messiah's job it is to administer basic ART to the almost 400 HIV-infected persons whose life depends on her being present in the center, her medicine kit in tow. These 400-odd people should consider themselves fortunate; they must have scored some good karmic points to at least claim some modicum of treatment; never mind that the kit's dosage follows the "one regimen suits all cases" approach, and never mind that this sort of generic treatment doesn't do anyone any good. (I wish the regimen has MBSR as one of the intervention techniques too, it has held out promise as a generic treatment in a controlled experiment; see this blog post.) For every one of these 400, there are thousands of others out there in the country and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, who have never ever been anywhere near a medical center all their life. And from all accounts, never will.

BBC UK image

Most of them seek out the traditional healer who has all the time in the world, unlike the healthcare workers who carry that I-am-totally-frazzled-and-about-to-collapse-with-exhaustion expression all the time. The friendly traditional healer whispers the nice comforting words of "everything will be alright" while administering his concoctions; hopefully that does make a difference.

image BBC UK

The problems faced by the likes of Christina Chinji are well-documented. Low salary level (USD 3 per day!) is the foremost de-motivator: everybody has a home and a hearth and a heart to tend to, you know. Obviously, the generous funding from donor countries is falling short somewhere. And then there is the constant Damocles' sword dangling on their own head. While administering treatment, they run the risk of becoming an HIV/AIDS patient themselves! As this report compiled by the MSF suggests, an estimated 200 deaths per year of health care workers are attributed to HIV/AIDS.

AP Photo, 2005

Now, this is one project that is crying for more empathy and better management! I am sure there must be somebody out there who is at the center of all the storm; who has their finger on the pulse of the situaton; and who can take the right, proactive action to handle the situation more empathically and professionally. For once, this somebody has to shed all cynicism, and also perhaps self-interest.

image by sachyn, sxc.hu

We churn out so many management graduates - and most of them have their heart in the right place! - every year, worldwide. It is time they proved their mettle and worth! It is human capital that is at stake, folks! Will prove to be a very interesting project for you, and one that will also earn you lots of karmic points, for sure.

image by weirdvis, sxc.hu

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