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12 February 2019
Born and raised in Luton, Dr Saleh Ahmed is a full-time GP at Barton Le-Clay surgery. Part time he undertakes clinical lead work and he is also part of the Leadership programme scheme at Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group. Graduated from medical school in 2007, Dr Saleh Ahmed has always had the passion to apply his training to the fullest; “helping those in need was a reason to get into medical school”, he says. In partnership with a Chicago, US-based NGO called MedGlobal. Saleh has been travelling the world helping those engulfed in war and disease. In 2017, he went to Bangladesh working with the displaced Burmese refugees.
Here Saleh blogs about his experience of travelling to the African country of Sierra Leone.
So it has been a couple of months since I returned from Sierra Leone. I left Heathrow on 3rd November 2018 and returned on 11th November. It was an emotionally draining, exhausting but truly a rewarding experience. In total, I was in Sierra Leone for 8 days and during my visit, I worked in Primary care dealing with chronic disease management, such as diabetes and hypertension.
The sheer scale of the healthcare crisis in Sierra Leone dawned on me the moment I landed. In terms of health status, Sierra Leone is rated very poorly. The average life expectancy in Sierra Leone is 57 years, which is one of the lowest in the world. In 2014, the Ebola virus epidemic in Sierra Leone began, which had a widespread impact on the country. By the end of 2014, there were nearly 3000 deaths and 10 thousand cases of the disease. Since 2015, Ebola has been eradicated from the country, however, the hardship remains.
I was located in the city of Bo, Sierra Leone’s second largest city, we worked in a community hospital which had one solitary doctor. This is not an ideal situation where you have hundreds of people waiting to see a doctor. Even with the lack of staff and equipment the doctor and his colleagues continue to achieve amazing results. What sticks to memory is the patience and resilience these people have, it was second to none. They truly are amazing people.
I met families who have been walking for days and not seen a doctor in several years. Some of the illness people were turning up with included Pneumonia, Diarrheal diseases and Malaria. What really impressed me about the patients is how they would sit around for hours with no complaints about waiting times or the lack of doctors available.
When I witnessed the relentless march of people, it made me realise how fortunate we are with the health service we have here in the UK. It’s not perfect and it has room for improvement but when comparing with others we are very lucky. The NHS is a precious institution and it is our duty to look after it.
It was a humbling experience and one which I will never forget. I met some great people in a beautiful country. I am planning for another humanitarian trip to Bekaa Valley, Lebanon in April to work in the refugee camps there.