Before August 2006, Canadian doctors and humanitarians going on medical missions to Africa did not have the medicine they needed for malaria, a top killer on the continent.
Dr. Douville treats a child in Uganda
“I am a doctor, but I am useless without the donated medicines,” says Dr. Linda Douville, a family physician from Newmarket, Ontario, who regularly carries Physician Travel Packs (PTP) from Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC) to Uganda to provide free health care.
A PTP contains a broad assortment of primary care medicines and medical supplies for treating hundreds of children and adults in the developing world. Designed to be hand carried, a PTP is all a doctor needs to set up a makeshift clinic and begin seeing patients.
Since antimalarials were added to the PTP a year ago, Canadian doctors going to Africa now have one of the medicines they need the most.
“This was always a major gap in the contents of the Physician Travel Pack,” says Samar Assousa, HPIC’s Director of Physician Programs. “Antimalarials have always been the most requested medicine from people going to Africa.”
HPIC is very focused on the needs of patients in the developing world. “Knowing that there is such a huge need for antimalarials in Africa, we are so pleased to be able to offer this to the Canadian medical professionals and humanitarians serving there,” Assousa says.
Lou Paolucci took a PTP to Malawi this year. She was accompanied by her husband, a family doctor from Kingston, Ontario. “Malaria is as common as our colds in Africa,” she says. The Paoluccis treated a four-year-old boy named Jonas with an antimalarial. “He presented with a high fever and signs and symptoms of malaria.” With the treatment he recovered.
Jonas is one of an estimated one million orphans in Malawi. The Paoluccis report that these children are especially vulnerable to malaria. “Thank you so much for providing the medicine,” she writes.
Dr. Douville was also very appreciative of the antimalarial medicines when she served in Uganda last summer. “Malaria is the number one cause of death in Uganda,” she says. “A little girl came to our clinic with cerebral malaria and survived, thanks to these medicines.”
“In fact, malaria is so common that people come in with their own diagnosis,” Dr. Douville says.
Dr. Douville estimates that about 20 per cent of the patients who come to the clinic have malaria. “Some people get over it on their own, but others develop complications and fever and die.”
By the end of 2007, HPIC provided close 700 PTPs worldwide. Roughly a third were destined for Africa. In 2008, HPIC expects the demand for PTPs to increase by several hundred.