The Good Work of Slovenian Doctors in Africa, and How You Can Help

By , 22 Aug 2018, 13:15 PM Made in Slovenia
The team:  Andraž Jereb, Tonja Mertelj, Matic Mrak, Eva Ušeničnik and Tadej Voljč. The team: Andraž Jereb, Tonja Mertelj, Matic Mrak, Eva Ušeničnik and Tadej Voljč. Photo -Tomaž Kos

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Learning in the field and bringing healthcare to areas that otherwise go without. 

August 22, 2018

In recent months it seems the Slovenian healthcare system has only been in the news for negative stories about staff shortages, corruption and funding crises, but these shouldn’t overshadow the good work being done by those working within the system, nor that by the next generation of doctors and nurses.

One example among many is a project is run by the Section for Tropical and Travel Medicine (Sekcija za tropsko in potovalno medicino), at the University Medical Centre Ljubljana, which organises several trips a year to developing nations in order to gain valuable experience in the field, while also providing medical care to communities that suffer from a lack of trained staff and adequate resources. At the time of writing there are teams in Kenya, Zambia, and Madagascar and plans are currently being made to send a five person team back to the first on this list. More specifically to the village of Majiwa, with Matic Mrak , Tonja Mertelj, Eva Ušeničnik, Tadej Voljč and Andraž Jereb heading there in January 2019. The programme can be traced back to at least 1977, when Professor Franjo Pikelj visited Bayanga in the Central African Republic and decided to devote the rest of his career to tropical medicine.

The village of Majiwa is in the southwestern part of Kenya, along Lake Victoria, about 100km from the city of Kisumu, and is not shown on Google Maps. Teams from the Section for Tropical and Travel Medicine have been working in the village since 2003, and over the years a small outpatient clinic has been built, and a local man trained to provide medical care, all with funds from Slovenia.

The aims of the project are to provide basic health care for the local population, continuation of the outpatient work of previous expeditions, the provision of medicines and medical supplies, and providing preventive education to the population with regard to nutrition and drinking water, oral hygiene, the spread of infectious diseases and perinatal care. For example, every week children are weighed and measured to monitor their development, and receive a high-calorie meal, with a donation of just €10 enabling a child to benefit from this throughout the three-month programme.

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The team that's currently in the village, with the picture showing William Anyiko, Tajda Starman, Urška Oprčkal , Marvo Guy and Peter Zabret. Source: The group's Facebook page. Their blog can be followed here.

However, the value of these trips for Slovenia goes beyond humanitarianism or soft diplomacy, as they enable the medical students and staff to get practical experience dealing with illnesses that, while they may seem remote from Europe, can still appear here, with global travel meaning that no area is truly isolated.

The plans of the medical students are admirable, and lives will undoubtably be saved, but the team cannot succeed without the support of others, and it’s here that the wider community in Slovenia and elsewhere can help. The team wants to raise €20,000 in order to buy medicines, medical equipment and supplies. The money will also be used to pay for the group’s travel expenses, accommodation, a translator and local staff, as well as enable the provision of transport to a larger hospital three hours away, when the clinic cannot deal with the patient.

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You can help by donating, or buying an item, at the team's stall each Friday at Ljubljana's Open Kitchen in the Central Market

 Of course, trust is at the heart of all this work, including the trust that the Slovenian teams must win from the local populations, as well as that from those who give funds to support them. It’s thus important to know that the Slovene volunteers will not be spending the money on fine housing and expensive leisure activities, but instead living in modest quarters and working almost every day, helping the local people to improve their lives, preventing deaths due to diseases such as pneumonia, diarrheal infections, tuberculosis and malnutrition, and gaining valuable experience in the field that could never be obtained in Ljubljana.

There are numerous ways you can help to support the project. Via your bank, donations can be sent to TRR: SI56 01100-6030 708 380 at UJP Ljubljana, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Medicine, Vrazov trg 2, 1000 Ljubljana. REFERENCE: 250576-18. PAYEE: Donation Kenya2019. PURPOSE CODE: CHAR.

You can also send the text message MEDICINA5 to the number 1919, which will automatically send €5 to Majiwa 2019.

Finally, those in Ljubljana can visit the team at their Open Kitchen stand and help fund the expedition by purchasing a shirt, bracelet, bag or book marker, while you can follow the project on Facebook or on the team’s website.

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