It is only 8:00AM when clinical outreach team member Dr. Asrat Mengiste arrives at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center in Moshi, Tanzania, and already 70 patients are lined up awaiting a consultation.
As he conducts back-to-back life-enhancing, reconstructive surgeries, he is accompanied by 20 local doctors. Dr. Mengiste talks them through every action and explains every decision. Over the course of the next four days, he will operate on 40 patients and share his knowledge and expertise to this team of local care providers, eager to put into practice what they have learned.
Patients travel for miles to be treated by Dr. Mengiste’s team. Today, more than 60% of the patients waiting in line are children. Providing care to a constant stream of high-need patients is a test of stamina, but Dr. Mengiste is motivated by the knowledge that:
“The operations make a big difference to the lives of my patients. Most of them have suffered for a long time, often since birth. It may be a cleft palate so that one is unable to talk, eat, or go to school. It may be a burn that has left one unable to walk or to hold things.”
Dr. Mengiste and his team of health care professionals spend their lives traveling to remote rural hospitals. He is one of AMREF’s Flying Doctors that travel to areas inaccessible except by plane, where health clinics and hospitals struggle to support hundreds of people in outlaying villages. The challenges of performing surgery in these hospitals are immense. Water is often scarce, surgical facilities and basic medical equipment are poor or non-existent, and unannounced power cuts happen every day.
Despite these challenges, Dr. Mengiste has carried out 1,702 consultations and 801 operations over the course of 80 outreach trips in the past 12 months.
“The fact that we are able to make a difference in the lives of many desperate people in our region makes me proud,” he says.
Watch a video showing some of Dr Mengiste's outreach work
Read more about AMREF's work in Tanzania.
Read more about the AMREF Flying Doctors