Why am I going to Tanzania?
For years I have been wanting to go on a mission to the tropics. For a plastic surgeon with extensive experience in the field of burn care there is – unfortunately – a lot of work to be done in this setting. Burns are a common type of injury in Africa, especially among the poorest. The problems encountered are often way more severe compared to what we see in the Netherlands: where burn survival rates in high-income countries have been increasing due to improved burn care, the survival rate in Africa has remained low. Furthermore, scar related problems are often also more severe in Africa. This is not only due to the limited availability of acute care but also due to practically absent rehabilitation programs.
When my colleague Mathijs Botman asked me to join him on a mission to Tanzania I immediately said YES. It is great to be able to do this mission for Dokters van de Wereld. The mission is based on altruism, but I am also curious about everything else that we will come across. There is no doubt that the circumstances will trigger us to think and act out-of-the box, but this is exactly what I like to do and is part of my daily practice. Besides performing surgery, we will also be spending time training local doctors how to handle the most common burn injury situations and complex cases. A lot of time will thus be spent on educating local doctors.
Where are we going to work?
Haydom Lutheran Hospital is located in the town of Haydom in the most Western part of the Manyara district. The hospital is located about 300 km southwest of Arusha.
The hospital was founded by Norwegian Lutheran Missionaries in 1955. It is currently owned and exploited by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania.
Doctors of the world
Dokters van de Wereld is part of the international Médecins du Monde network. Together with 15 other delegations we stand up for the universal right to health care, both in the Netherlands and abroad. One of the most important components of our mission is providing access to health care for all who are currently excluded.
The Dokters van de Wereld foundation strongly relies on volunteers. Together with a team of involved medical professionals, active members, young talent and permanent staff we are fighting for the human right to health and health care.
Matthijs Botman (plastic surgeon), Jan Brommundt (anaesthesiologist), Thom Hendriks (MD global health and tropical medicine), Nicole Faithfull (Dokters van de Wereld) and Johanne (Joop) de Vries (Surgical camp coordinator).
Health care in Tanzania: still a major concern
Under the policy of the Tanzanian government, children up to the age of 5 have free access to healthcare. However, in practice, this policy is not always respected. Poverty and education level play an important part also a main concern when it comes to good quality healthcare. When doctors are well educated they move to larger cities where they can earn more money.
Burn care in Tanzania
In low- and middle-income countries the incidence of severe burn wounds in children is relatively high. In many places families cook on open fires, children play close by and may fall into the fire or they get burned by boiling water or hot oil. There are no specialized burn care centers like in the Netherlands.
Burns are preventable and therefore prevention strategies are even more important than accessible and affordable healthcare.
Paul van Zuijlen
What about me? I am working as a plastic surgeon in the Red Cross Hospital in Beverwijk, the Netherlands, since 2006. I am specialised in burn care and scar reconstructions. My experience and knowledge gained during many international work visits, help me understand and implement the possibilities we have as medical doctors. The development, management and conduct of research projects give me the opportunity to push boundaries in medicine and help me to better understand which problems can be solved. Our research program focuses amongst others on tissue engineering, which means that we trying to grow human tissues such as skin and cartilage in the lab to treat patients towards a scar free healing.