A surgeon for disadvantaged children
In Senegal, there is fewer than 1 doctor for every 10,000 people. Dr Dior N’diaye is one of them. This 37-year-old woman, is a paediatric surgeon who volunteered to take part in the surgical outreach missions set up by AMREF.
Dr Dior N’diaye arrives at the Tambacounda Regional Hospital. It’s 8 a.m. and patients are already queuing up in the corridor that leads to the surgery area.
Reaching the entrance to the operating theatre, she meets her colleagues from Dakar, two surgeons and one anaesthetist. They quickly plan the day ahead and go over the cases they will operate on. Then they brief the local doctors and nurses who will assist them. Dr Dior talks them through the first child’s condition and explains the steps in the operation. After four days she will have operated on some 50 children and shared knowledge and expertise with the local medical staff, who are all eager to learn and assist with the pre- and post- operative procedures.
This 37-year-old woman, a mother of two, is a paediatric surgeon. She normally works at the Diamniadio children’s hospital, not far from Dakar, Senegal’s bustling capital. But we meet her in this less glamourous rural hospital in the South-East. She is here because she volunteered to take part in the surgical outreach missions set up by AMREF to enable disadvantaged children to freely access paediatric and reconstructive surgery in the remote communities of Senegal.
“One day I was talking with a urologist colleague and friend who told me about the possibility of working with an NGO, going out into the most remote regions to help. I didn’t hesitate a second”
The needs are huge, she explains. In Senegal, there is fewer than 1 doctor for every 10,000 people. This severe lack of health care workers means that basic primary care and surgery are inaccessible to many, especially those living in communities far from paved roads, reliable electricity, and health facilities.
The AMREF programme tries to bridge this gap, making it possible for surgical teams to go on outreach missions, give consultations, perform operations and train local health workers in pre- and post-operative care as well as minor surgical procedures.
Dr Dior is on her fourth surgery mission this year.
AMREF has arranged medical consultations in the region’s elementary schools in recent months, treating a wide range of health problems and, at the same time, identifying the children who required surgery. AMREF then planned the surgery camp in Tambacounda with a team of surgeons and arranged for the children’s families to travel to and stay in town as long as necessary.
These children are Dr Dior’s patients today. She knows that the operations will make a big difference to their lives. Most of them have suffered for a long time, often since birth. It may be a cleft palate that prevents a child from talking or eating properly. Or it may be a burn that has left another unable to walk or hold things.
During these missions “we bring our know-how to resolve routine paediatric surgery problems. Problems that are generally easy to manage, but very difficult for local communities because they are often poor families who can’t afford the journey to the regional hospital – even less to Dakar – and because there is a lack of specialists in the local area.”
You treat a child successfully, you solve a problem for life. The result is immediate, the impact is huge.