We are currently looking for students to convene the 2018 AMSA National Convention and Global Health Conference. This provides an exciting opportunity to inspire, challenge and connect medical students from around Australia and for medical students in Hobart or Perth to be involved in shaping a unique program. You will both lead a team of medical student volunteers and hold a position on the AMSA Board.
In August/September 2017, the 13th annual AMSA Global Health Conference will be held in the city of Brisbane or Melbourne. We are now seeking applications for the position of AMSA 2018 Global Health Conference Convenor from either Queensland or Victoria.
In July 2018, the 59th annual AMSA National Convention will be held in the city of Hobart or Perth. Students from Tasmania and Western Australia are welcome to apply
Please see below for further information on the positions and application process.
We’re celebrating the FIFTIETH BIRTHDAY of the Official Magazine of the Australian Medical Students’ Association. If you’re a budding writer hoping to be published, look no further. Our theme for the first edition is Panacea: Go – The Nostalgia Edition.
If you’re reminiscing on your first years in med school, how entry into medicine was like for you – or if you just really love the 150 original Pokemon, then get in contact with firstname.lastname@example.org. Articles, creative writing and visual pieces with any interpretation of NOSTALGIA are all welcome!
This World Refugee Day, the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) has urged the Australian government to establish an independent health advisory body for immigration detention.
AMSA President, Elise Buisson, said that the current policy of indefinite detention of asylum seekers has detrimental physical and mental health outcomes. This is the result of inadequate medical care, and poor oversight of the processes by which health care is delivered.
“All communities have a right to the best attainable health, and our responsibility is greatest to those who are most vulnerable,” Ms Buisson said.
“Those in offshore detention are under Australia’s care, and must be afforded a standard of health care equivalent to that received by any Australian citizen.
“The circumstances that lead an individual to seek asylum also create a ripple of ongoing mental and physical health impacts. As a result, asylum seekers are in particular need of specialised, high quality health support.”
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) released two reports into immigration detention, The Forgotten Children (2014) and The health and well-being of children in immigration detention (2016).
The Forgotten Children found that children detained on Nauru suffered from extreme levels of physical, emotional, psychological and developmental distress.
Furthermore, clinical assessments by doctors working in immigration detention revealed that 34 per cent of children suffer serious mental illness, a stark contrast to just 2 per cent of children in the general Australian community.
“Children are at particular risk of suffering psychological and developmental harm as a result of immigration detention. The Forgotten Children report recommended that all children and their families be released into community detention, or the community,” Ms Buisson said.
“Until this recommendation is met, strong protections must be put in place to ensure those in detention are receiving adequate health care.”
Since the disbanding of the Immigration Health Advisory Group in 2013, there have been increasing calls for the Federal Government to establish an independent body of experts to oversee health care in immigration detention.
“Installing an independent health advisory body for immigration detention is an essential step in delivering transparent and effective health care to this particularly vulnerable community,” Ms Buisson said.
“Currently, the final call on medical decisions rests in the hands of Department of Health officials, not the doctors working in immigration detention themselves.
“Australians want health decisions to be made between them and their doctor. Those in immigration detention deserve the same. An independent panel of medical experts would put health decisions back in the hands of doctors, where they belong.”
Today on World Refugee Day, AMSA would like to recognise the enormous challenges that refugees worldwide face in rebuilding their lives from the chaos of conflict and persecution, and celebrate the invaluable contribution refugees have made to Australian society.
Third Year Medical Student, The University of Notre Dame Sydney & Member Without Portfolio, AMSA Rural Health Committee
It is widely accepted that students who originate from a rural location are likely to practice rurally – known as the “rural background effect”. The considerable research base on this topic has directed policy makers to focus on rural background students as the solution to rural health inequality. However research is lacking around the role urban medical students can play in bolstering the rural medical workforce alongside current initiatives. Current programs to increase the rural medical workforce tend to target students with a rural background, and opportunities for urban students may be limited.
Urban medical students already make up a notable proportion of students at Rural Clinical Schools (RCS), and many enter the rural workforce. In a retrospective survey of doctors who studied at the Flinders University RCS , close to half were practicing medicine rurally and half of these doctors were not of rural origin, but had grown up in a metropolitan centre. Clark & Freedman  suggested that RCS placements appear to even have a stronger association than that of rural background for students’ preference for adoption of rural medical practice. Naturally those who both have an extended rural placement and a rural background have the strongest predictor for rural medical practice, however the potential for urban background students has become sidelined. The potential of urban students must not be overlooked, as they can play a significant role in addressing the workforce shortage alongside their rural counterparts.
It is clear that there are urban students who have a preference for a rural medical career, however there are structural barriers which affect both rural and urban students to take up rural careers. These barriers include: perceived lack of support from supervisors or teachingn staff; belief that rural placements limit career options; a preference for a metropolitan lifestyle; perceived isolation from metropolitan based family and friends; and most significantly a partner who is not committed or able to work rurally . One of the most modifiable barriers, and one that is a current hot topic for discussion, is to increase vocational training opportunities in the bush. It has been shown that students and junior doctors are interested in rural training opportunities that provide long-term prospects for permanent, rural-based junior doctor terms and greater breadth of postgraduate training choices .
Unfortunately there are only scant opportunities to continue to work in rural Australia if you wish to specialise in a discipline other than general practice. While the country needs specialists like surgeons, psychiatrists, paediatricians and obstetrician/gynaecologists, junior doctors must move to metropolitan locations to undertake the majority of such training. It is no surprise that specialist intentions are a negative indicator for a rural career [5, 6]. This relocation is during a crucial time where many life decisions such as meeting a partner, starting a family, buying a home and finding career role models in the city significantly reduces the likelihood of returning to rural practice. Despite having the best of intentions initially long-term training remains a further barrier for urban students to fully convert.
In summary, students of urban origin are open to a career-determining rural experience, even if they may not have seriously considered working in a rural location previously . These students should be identified and supported at every opportunity, including after graduation for rural vocational training. Opportunities in these areas must be cultivated and promoted in future rural policy and workforce recruitment efforts.
1. Stagg, P., J. Greenhill, and P.S. Worley, A new model to understand the career choice and practice location decisions of medical graduates. Rural Remote Health, 2009. 9(4): p. 1245.
2. Clark, T.R., et al., Medical graduates becoming rural doctors: rural background versus extended rural placement. Med J Aust, 2013. 199(11): p. 779-82.
3. Henry, J.A., B.J. Edwards, and B. Crotty, Why do medical graduates choose rural careers? Rural Remote Health, 2009. 9(1): p. 1083.
4. Walker, J.H., et al., Rural origin plus a rural clinical school placement is a significant predictor of medical students' intentions to practice rurally: a multi-university study. Rural Remote Health, 2012. 12: p. 1908.
5. Jones, M., J.S. Humphreys, and M.R. McGrail, Why does a rural background make medical students more likely to intend to work in rural areas and how consistent is the effect? A study of the rural background effect. Aust J Rural Health, 2012. 20(1): p. 29-34.
6. Woolley, T., et al., Predictors of rural practice location for James Cook University MBBS graduates at postgraduate year 5. Aust J Rural Health, 2014. 22(4): p. 165-71.
The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) has warned that a nationwide shortfall in medical internships will leave recently graduated doctors unemployed. This will most significantly affect rural Australia and areas of health workforce need, which continue to suffer from a lack of access to medical practitioners and health services.
As the first internship offers are made this week under a cloud of uncertainty for many prospective junior doctors, AMSA President, Elise Buisson, said major investment is needed from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to drive expansion of internship placements in non-traditional settings.
“A crucial step in resolving the internship crisis will be investing in placements in non-traditional settings. An example of this is the Commonwealth Medical Internships (CMI) Initiative, which is an innovative Federal government program that provides an extra 100 internship positions each year,” Ms Buisson said.
“As recommended by the Review of Medical Intern Training released by the COAG Health Council in 2015, expansion of internship placements into appropriate private, not for profit and community settings is needed to increase the system’s overall capacity.
“Without an internship, medical graduates are unable to continue the necessary training to become the practising doctors that Australia needs and we will still have junior doctors missing out.”
Australia lost up to 40 of junior doctors earlier this year due to the lack of internships, despite an AMSA survey showing that 95 per cent of students without an internship would consider practice in a rural area, where demand for doctors is higher.
“These young doctors want to work in the Australian health care system – to give back to the communities that trained them, to give back to rural Australia and to our areas of need. Without an internship, they’ll have no opportunity to do that,” Ms Buisson said.
“We need a sustainable health workforce where continuing funding and expansion of internship positions is matched with expansion of vocational training positions, especially in rural, regional and remote Australia.”
AMSA is calling upon the Federal and State governments to make the expansion of medical internship positions a key health priority this election year.
AMSA President, Elise Buisson, delivered a powerful address at the AMA National Conference highlighting the social responsibility of the medical profession and how Australia’s health issues are within each individual’s power to change. She advocated on issues ranging from mental health, refugee & asylum seeker health and the retention of Indigenous medical students, to issues of gender equity in medical leadership, the health impacts of marriage inequality and climate change.
Good morning. My name is Elise, I’m a medical student from Campbelltown in Western Sydney, and as you’ve heard, I have the great privilege of leading and representing the 17,000 medical students around our country. I’m honoured to have the opportunity to speak to you today, in particular because even as a student the AMA has been a source of support for me in a number of ways. I work for a state AMA, I have a seat on Federal Council, and as of yesterday, I am the proud owner of not one, not two but three AMA Federal election caps. I want to see the AMA go from strength to strength, and the health of our nation with it.
Now my goals in early life, started off a little differently. When I was 14 years old I was pretty confident that I was going to be a hairdresser. I’m not a fan of small talk, so I’m comfortable predicting that would have been a disaster. But I’d met the wife of one of my school teachers who was a hairdresser, and she seemed pretty happy. As a result, it seemed to me that probably becoming a hairdresser was a good way to become happy. There was an enviable simplicity to the thought processes of 14 year old me.
I had a really fantastic teacher when I was in middle school, his name was Mr. Naiker. When I told Mr. Naiker that I was going to finish up year 10 and leave school, he sat me down and said to me, “I don’t have a lot of power around here, but I’ll do what I can. So, you tell me the top 5 reasons you want to leave, and I’ll try and help you.” You know, Mr Naiker was right. Early career middle school teachers do have a lot less power than many others in this world. They even have a lot less power than many others in their school.
However, what Mr Naiker understood, and what I have come to learn, is the responsibility of those with even a little power to affect change for those with less. There weren’t 5 things that Mr Naiker could help me with. I’m not sure there was even one. But seeing that he was willing to fight to keep me around made me believe that it was a fight worth joining.
As a result, I have come to learn both how much of my life is owed to those who have helped me in even the smallest of ways, and how much I can influence the outcomes of those around me in return. When I reflect on the 10 years since, I draw great humor and great humility from the slightly paraphrased words of my very favorite comedian Tim Minchin:
You are lucky to be here. You are incalculably lucky to be born, and incredibly lucky to be brought up in a nice life that helped you get educated and encouraged you to go to uni. Or if you were born into a horrible life, that’s unlucky and you have my sympathy, but you were still lucky: lucky that you happened to be made of the sort of DNA that made the sort of brain which, when placed in a horrible childhood environment, would make decisions that meant you ended up, eventually, graduating uni.
And here’s the part for the days I need to be reminded to be humble:
Well done you, for dragging yourself up by the shoelaces, but you were lucky. You didn’t create the bit of you that dragged you up. They’re not even your shoelaces.
This is not to say that personal responsibility, and personal choice, do not matter or are not significant. I didn’t used to expect much for my life and when I grew old enough to understand that I could change the story that seemed laid out for me, I did my best to make a better life instead. But my best is different to your best, and the best of the person sitting next to you. We all have different strengths and need different kinds of support, and our outcomes are dependent on whether those needs are met.
My life, as I see it, is the sum of individuals who took an interest in me long before I looked like one to back. I owe many of my opportunities and successes to people who have urged me forward when I needed it most. I’m sure most of you would acknowledge the same.
This is to say, that those who feel that they’re a self made man or woman are misinformed. We have all received help, even as small as a kind word. And those individual actions, individual decisions, individual people, can and have changed our lives.
Because of that help, we are a room full of very privileged people. Now, privileged is not to say that we didn’t work hard, or even that we didn’t deserve it, but that we are winning a race in which, at some point, we were given a running start. Even those from the worst possible backgrounds, upon gaining entry to medicine, inherit a security and a position in society that most will never have access to. That gives the medical profession a lot of power. I believe as a result that we have far more responsibility than most for what we choose to do with it.
Having all received help to gain our positions in society, we ought to use our positions consistently and wisely to in turn help those with less. We should do it because we can and we should do it because it’s right. I think those in this room feel the same way. It’s why you became doctors. It’s why you’re here today.
Mental health of doctors
Now in 7 months I’ll finish my term and a new President will take my place. My name will live on in impeccable gold lettering outside the AMA Board room, but many of my ideas won’t. So it’s fair to say I feel a responsibility to use my platform frankly and effectively in the time that I have. At some point it became clear to me that the best thing I could do for medical students was not to be afraid in discussing issues of mental health, or sexuality, or gender equity, in the hope that they would feel they could speak about the things that have the potential to hold them back.
A little earlier this year I wrote an article in the Sydney Morning Herald that discussed my mental health when I was very young, and the contributing factors. I was in grade 5 the first time I can remember being suicidal. I’m lucky to have built a wonderful and happy life for many years since, but the memory of that desperation has never left me. I see it in people around me, and they are facing their battle in perhaps a more unforgiving environment. Children are resilient and doctors are too, but the stakes are higher when you’ve got a social standing to lose.
When I was in my first year of medical school, we were given a lecture on doctor’s mental health. Our lecturer was well liked and well respected, because it was universally felt that she genuinely cared about all of us. She got up in that lecture and told us personal stories, of the deaths of those around her as a result of the pressure of medical school and medical practice. Her final slide was a picture of a diamond, with huge lettering “you are precious”. Everyone felt pretty loved and pretty looked after that day, but we were too early on in our training to appreciate how hard things were about to get for some of those sitting beside us. A number of people I was close to suffered severe mental illness during that very first year of medical school. The one that worried me the most, after the storm was weathered and appropriate help was being sought, told me that in the darkest moments, “you are precious” was the reason to go on.
The well known beyondblue study of 2013 found that 40% of doctors believed that those with a history of mental ill health were perceived as less competent by their peers. I have personally spoken to many medical students who are seriously suffering, and many who have contemplated suicide, rather than risk being “found out” as having reached out for help. People are considering death as a reasonable alternative to what they perceive as our judgment. Don’t underestimate how closely your juniors are watching your offhand comments on mental health. Don’t underestimate the repercussions of your actions, destructive or protective. This is within our power to change.
Women in medicine
I hold my Executive meetings in a state AMA conference room, where I’m greeted by a long line of dashing greyscale photos of state leaders. My team sometimes likes to play a game of “spot the woman”. It’s a problem we have in AMSA too.
Social entrepreneur and absolute legend Holly Ransom this week highlighted in a speech to medical students a Harvard study with comment on the issue. It found that, given 5 essential criteria for a job application, women would sensibly enough, apply when they filled at least 4. Men would apply when they filled 1. What women had in capability they lacked in bravado and they fell out of the running because of it. When only one in 5 AMSA Presidents are women I’m not all that surprised that women are not progressing up the chain. This is their first major opportunity to learn to lead in this setting. Being underrepresented means they’re already behind at the starting line.
I’ve been told by a number of people this year that the reason women aren’t in leadership in various areas of medicine is a lack of interest, or a lack of ability. I think we should take more responsibility for the situation than that. We are failing to create leadership environments that foster their interests, and we are failing to provide opportunities that foster their ability. This is a problem I’ve now inherited responsibility for in AMSA, so I am accountable for both my individual actions to encourage future female leaders, and my actions in improving the system.
Let me implore each of you: encourage women to take a step forward and you’ll find they’re just as capable of and interested in standing on their own two feet. Do it early, do it consistently, do it as an individual and make it a part of a strategy. This is within our power to change.
Indigenous medical students and doctors
An empowering example of the AMA’s advocacy, both through the dedicated taskforce and through this Conference itself, has been the focus on recognising vital research in Indigenous health, and supporting the representation of Indigenous health professionals. Unfortunately, despite this the drop out rate for Indigenous medical students remains 30%, while non-Indigenous students like myself make it through 99% of the time. This year I’ve learnt a lot from the people down the road at the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association, but if I distilled it down to just one lesson, it would probably be how much more remains that the individual can do. This room is full of people who have successfully navigated medical training and who have an interest in strengthening the future of the medical profession. These students are that future. As individuals, we need to take a role in engaging with the most committed and knowledgeable stakeholder, AIDA, to get these students through, in order to create the Indigenous health leaders this nation needs to Close the Gap. Working together, this is within the power of the medical community and the Indigenous community to change.
You’re listening to me discuss systemic problems in our profession: the mental health of our juniors, the retention of Indigenous students, the representation of women in leadership. I’m talking about solutions as coming from you, the individual, and in the face of all of that you may think me idealistic or you may think this glib, but systemic change comes from the will of the individual, and has the ultimate aim of changing the behavior of the individual, just on a larger scale.
I’ve spoken on what we need to do for our own. But wider society also looks to the people in this room for leadership on many things. Rudolf Virchow, had this to say about the role of doctors in society.
“Medicine, as a social science, as the science of human beings, has the obligation to point out problems and attempt their theoretical solution. The physicians are the natural attorneys of the poor, and social problems fall to a large extent within their jurisdiction.”
We are a broad church, but we share a common purpose. Most of those in this room have sworn, or will swear, an oath to first and above all, do no harm. But harm is not only the result of action, but of inaction as well. On issues such as the indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees, climate change and even marriage equality, the AMA has the ability to contribute to change. We hold power, and not to wield that power on behalf of those who have less, be they within the medical profession or in wider society, is to do harm.
The primary example I can share with you of seeing my peers engage with the AMA is when they heard about the speech Brian Owler gave at AMA’s refugee health forum. It tapped into a belief in them that we have a responsibility to do more. Ending offshore detention engages medical students more than any issue I can name. I can’t mobilise medical students to march in the streets for their own job prospects. But to protest the health impacts of our nations’ treatment of refugees they will make their own placards. Those in offshore detention are vulnerable people, like any others, that we as individuals came into medicine to serve. As such, it makes perfect sense that these are the people that the AMA, as a collection of us, exists for as well.
In 2016, we are staring down the barrel of a vote or a plebiscite for marriage equality. A plebiscite will be 160 million dollars worth of ugly, and it will cause the health of the LGBT community harm, but it will likely happen nonetheless.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists recently announced their support for marriage equality, premised on the evidence that shows, and I quote, “the discrimination and marginalization experienced by the LGBT population increases the risk of developing mental health issues, and creates barriers to accessing supportive services.”
Governance of society exists to maximize the potential of each and every citizen, free from physical and mental burden. All communities have the right to the best attainable health. All doctors have a responsibility to ensure that those who are marginalized and stigmatized against, are provided equitable opportunity for and access to good health, in order to serve not only themselves, but their families and communities.
It’s not news to anyone in this room that one of the AMA’s two core objectives is to participate in the resolution of major social and community health issues. This major social and community health issue requires resolution. History will at some point look back and ask where we stood. As doctors, we must be utterly confident we can justify the health basis for what they’ll find.
The health impacts of climate change are perhaps the greatest public health threat to face my generation. In a political climate that has recently seen our Deputy Prime Minister wonder aloud if perhaps climate change is real after all, the voice of respected, highly educated citizens like yourselves has been of the greatest benefit. No non-political actor wields the public influence that is held by those sitting in this room. Those continued advocacy efforts put pressure on the government to respond to climate change as a health threat. That advocacy should be praised and should be protected.
We all stood together yesterday and swore our commitment to the Declaration of Geneva, as so many of us have before. “I solemnly pledge to consecrate my life to the service of humanity.” Fighting for these issues is in the service of humanity.
But, if you don’t buy that as a point, let me offer you this one: it’s also in the service of those in this room. Your potential future members are people like me, and I say potential because despite my best efforts I do see disengagement in my generation of doctors.
Many of you can speak from far more experience that me. But my own experience has been that people become loyal to member-based organisations based on what they give, rather than what they get, and what they want to give is a voice to issues that drive them. As interns and doctors in training they will come looking for a place to translate the passions they acted on in AMSA. Passions ranging from rural health to gender equity to climate change. If they don’t find it, I suspect they will search for another place to contribute their voice, instead.
In addition, fighting on these issues is in the interests of our standing in society. To speak on behalf of social issues does not lessen our influence on other matters. It amplifies our voice as the community leaders that the public want us to be. When we are seen to stand, in a well reasoned and non-partisan manner, for issues of broad social importance, it confirms in people’s mind that we do not exist for self interest. As a medical student once passionately declared to AMSA Council, “It behooves us to be more than unionists.” That the AMA exists as an advocacy body already does an immeasurably great service both to the medical profession and to the wider public. The AMA doesn’t just do things nominally, it is outstandingly effective. That success and community standing in turn leaves us well placed to do more.
Health isn’t determined only in your waiting rooms and clinics. Health is determined socially, and that’s the attraction of the AMA for people like me. The ability to tackle these big social issues that make people sick, and give them an opportunity for a better life before they ever meet me as a medical practitioner. To do so is well within our power, and our responsibility.
The Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA) has called for the Medicare Rebate Freeze to be lifted immediately following the Federal Election.
“In the interest of both patients and doctors, it is critical that this measure be lifted. The freeze will cut $2.8 billion from health care from 2013 to 2019. It is a devastating blow to medicine in Australia, particularly general practice,” AMSA President Elise Buisson said.
A recent survey of 510 GPs found that in the next 12 months, two-thirds plan to increase their fees directly in response to the rebate freeze. Nearly 40 per cent stated that they would begin charging concessional patients, whom they previously bulk-billed.
The current Medicare Rebates are increasingly failing to meet the real cost of the provision of health care to patients.
“The government has to recognise who this is going to hit hardest – young people, students, elderly, pensioners and the disabled,” Ms Buisson said.
“As students, we know how critical it is that we have readily available services for both physical and mental health. The Government’s current policy will create barriers to access to these health services where they did not previously exist.
“These changes will have an impact on career choices made by medical students. By putting stress on the profession of general practice, students will inevitably look to other professions to train and practise in.
“In order to adequately provide Australia with much needed doctors, we must train medical graduates in General Practice. The government should be looking for ways to encourage students into rural general practice rather than creating disincentives to enter.
“This piece of legislation has implications on the health of Australians as well as the future of our health workforce. It needs to be scrapped.”
The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) has called on the Federal Government to make investment in training positions for junior doctors in rural Australian communities a top priority, rather than new medical schools.
AMSA President, Elise Buisson, said today that new medical schools will not resolve the health disparities faced by regional, rural and remote Australia.
Ms Buisson said that while many medical students and junior doctors were passionate about becoming rural GPs and specialists, upon graduation, they found there were few opportunities because of a shortage of accredited training positions outside of the metropolitan centres.
“We need to use evidence-based approaches to address rural workforce shortages, which includes making the funding of rural specialty training positions a priority,” said Ms Buisson.
“Funding for health and health education should be done on the basis of rational, health workforce planning as opposed to making politically attractive and opportunistic decisions.”
Leading up to the election, AMSA has thrown its support behind the Doctors for Rural Communities plan, an evidence-based proposal that would see an immediate injection of doctors into rural communities. Under the plan, a $46 million investment by the Government would allow 306 doctors to undertake an annual year of training, or 61 doctors to undertake five years of their training, in rural, regional and remote Australia.
Just $32.5 million would be enough to fund 216 doctors to complete a year of specialty training in rural communities.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) have both joined in calls for the major political parties to commit to evidence-based and effective initiatives to improve health services for people in rural and remote Australia, including Doctors for Rural Communities.
Doctors for Rural Communities is also supported by respected rural doctors, Dr Darryl Mackender, at Orange Base Hospital and Dr John Preddy, a Head of Department at Wagga Wagga Rural Referral Hospital, who have already put forward their support for the above proposal.
“Representative stakeholders for rural health and healthcare in Australia stand united on the need for expanding our rural training workforce, as opposed to funding new medical schools,” said Ms Buisson.
“We cannot hesitate to act on rural health any longer. Not only is the potential for economic wastage immense, but the people of rural Australia deserve increased access to much needed medical staff, including more general practitioners and specialists.”
“We welcome the attention and investment being given to medical training and research, but investment in vocational training will deliver much greater benefits for rural Australians than more medical schools.”
To find out more and to pledge your support, visit www.dfrc.org.au.
‘I exist because you exist, I matter because you matter, I am because we are.’
Mduduzi*, Mbali* and their four children are a family living in the mountainous region of Mambane. Mduduzi, like 27.4% of the Swaziland population is HIV positive (WFP, 2016) but he is also troubled by recurring bouts of multi drug resistant tuberculosis (MDRTB). Nowadays, Mdudzi can no longer act as the primary breadwinner, placing responsibility on the income made by his wife’s fatty cakes which she sells locally (and the reason she is not pictured here). Despite her determination, Mbali only brings in between 10 and 100 rand a day ($1.00 – $10.00), which is used to purchase maize and chicken feet, a meal consumed three times a day. With the scarcity of water, and their water tank empty, their eldest son Nkosana* walks approximately 2 hours each morning in the sweltering Swazi heat to collect water. We accompanied Nkosana on his walk to assess their water source. An ash-coloured puddle services their community of 600 people. When presented with the reality of life here in Swaziland, it is not difficult to comprehend why 3.4 million people die each year due to water-related disease (WHO, 2009).
To read the insightful piece from Shalini Ponnampalam a Second Year Medical student, click here.