Author Archives: Douglas Steinberg

The Front Line of Eye Health

This blog post was written by Douglas Steinberg, HKI’s Regional Director of West Africa.

MAMBIRI, KITA  (MALI), July 3, 2013. When we arrived at the community health center in the village of Mambiri, there was already a throng of patients waiting. In the days prior, the local health workers had canvassed the area surrounding Mambiri, informing people that a team would be visiting to conduct trachoma screening and surgery for those with trichiasis. The team consisted of three ophthalmological nurses who have traveled from Mali’s capital city, Bamako. The team is mid-way through a ten day circuit of the local health centers, in remote communities such as Mambiri. The team works with the local health center staff to get the word out, to screen and to follow up patients who need further care or treatment.

Nurse Adama Sangaré (left) and the Eye Health team in Mali. Photo: c. HKI/Douglas Steinberg

One nurse, Adama Sangaré, works the through the crowd who are seated along with wall under the awning of the health center, consulting with each individual. They come with a variety of eye care issues, many of which can be easily treated with tetracycline or other antibiotics, and the patients sent on their way. Some will present issues, such as cataracts, that are referred to the district or regional hospital. Around a half dozen will require surgery for trichiasis, which is performed on the spot by two other nurses. Their goal is to perform an average of seven operations a day.

I am greatly impressed by the team of nurses. They are skilled in their work, and take the time to discuss (in the local language Bamabara) with each patient. They advise the patients how to avoid getting infected again, for example through face washing. The few who need surgery are coached through the procedure, with gentle words. The operation is fairly painless (patients say), but it still takes some nerve to submit to it. And all go away pleased with the results. The health care workers who provide this service are working in very basic conditions. They are away from home long periods, staying in remote areas with no amenities – not even running water or electricity. They are really the front line of eye health in Mali, and they perform their work with great pride and good cheer.

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Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness

Our Short Trip to Timbuktu

This blog post was written by Douglas Steinberg, HKI’s Regional Director of West Africa.

TIMBUKTU, JULY 1: Our short trip to Timbuktu today has brought back memories from when I worked in Mali in the early 1990s. I spent much time in the Timbuktu region, plying the Niger River in large canoes to visit communities located on the banks of the Niger River. Timbuktu is a mythical place for people in the West, who think of it as the end of the world, and in many respects it is about as remote as you can get. But it has also been for centuries a center of learning and trade on the edge of the Sahara. While much of Timbuktu’s heritage was destroyed during the Islamist occupation last year, the area surrounding Timbuktu remains constant.  It is a land that depends on the annual floods of the river for rice farming, where large herds gather in lush pastures when the waters recede, and where a rich catch of fish can be taken year round. Life moves at the slow pace of the Niger River current, but all together the local diet is rich and diverse. Were it not for the political crisis, the region would be relatively well-nourished. more…

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Categories Africa, Reducing Malnutrition

Saving Sight on World Sight Day

Yayé Tounakar receiving eyelid surgery

By Douglas Steinberg, HKI’s Deputy Regional Director for West Africa.

I have visited several of Helen Keller International (HKI) programs to control Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), and blogged about them here. Among the main NTDs that HKI works to control is trachoma, one of the leading causes of blindness in the world.

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Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness

My Favorite Food

How One Community Prevents Malnutrition by Monitoring the Growth of its Children.
map_of_niger

Post by Douglas Steinberg, HKI’s Deputy Regional Director for West Africa.

In a recent visit to HKI’s work in Tsogal, Niger, replies to my queries about the harvest were not encouraging at all.

“Most families here have only harvested enough to feed their families for two months,” replied one farmer in the community. This year is shaping up to be much less bountiful than last year – but still better than the disastrous harvest of 2009. This is a time when young children are at risk of malnutrition.

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Categories Africa, Reducing Malnutrition

Mauritanian “Wonder” Bread

NY Times Journalist Nicholas Kristof visits a flour mill where there's more than meets the eye.
Kristof & Shawn

HKI’s Shawn Baker and Douglas Steinberg are currently hosting NY Times Journalist, Nicholas Kristof, and the two winners of his “Win-A-Trip” contest – Saumya Dave, who studied writing at Columbia University and medicine at Medical College of Georgia, and Noreen Connolly, a teacher from Newark, NJ – as they travel throughout Senegal, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Shawn and Doug will be blogging throughout the week sharing their insights and experiences as they travel with Kristof uncovering stories in public health. The first post, written by Shawn, is below.

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Categories Africa, Reducing Malnutrition