Damien Foundation Nigeria
“I had heard about tuberculosis, but didn't know what the symptoms were”, says 24-year-old Taofeek. His skinny body and the fact that his knees are wider than his stick-like legs tell us that it was quite some time before he began the treatment. But Taofeek is well educated, apprenticed to a printer and of much less humble origin. His family lives in one of the beautiful colonial houses and is descended from one of the region's best known kings. If there is ignorance here, what can we expect to find in the slums down the road? In Nigeria, half of the population is illiterate.
“When Waris got sick we had literally no idea what to do”, says his uncle. “The traditional healer gave him a drink to stop him coughing and said that the symptoms would eventually pass. But Waris got sicker and weaker by the day. After a while he couldn't walk or sit up; he begged us to release him from his pain. Had the volunteer from Damien Foundation not told us to take him to the tuberculosis clinic, Waris would not be here now.”
Nigeria has one of the lowest detection rates in the world. Of every 100 new cases of tuberculosis a year, only 17 are detected and treated. Children under 15 account for just 6% of annual TB cases; far lower than we might expect in a country where 44% of the population are children.
It is for this reason that Damien Foundation has set itself the task of providing local populations with more information, especially in areas where the difficulties are at their most acute. And it works with local partner organisations to this end. But knowledge is in equally short supply among medical personnel and relief workers. This is why Damien Foundation offers training in schools and universities for the doctors and nurses of the future. More knowhow is much needed in the areas of data management and detection and treatment of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.
TEXTS: Wendy Huyghe
PHOTOS: Tim Dirven @T.Dirven for Damien Foundation