Young doc­tor keen to help in worst trou­blespots


Young doc­tor Chatu Yapa doesn’t lose hope when she sees chil­dren die.

The things she has seen while work­ing for Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders only make the 28-year-old’s de­sire to help even stronger.

The Block­house Bay res­i­dent has trav­elled to South Su­dan, Iraq and the Philip­pines with Medecins Sans Fron­tieres.

The in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian or­gan­i­sa­tion pro­vides as­sis­tance in more than 60 coun­tries. They go into coun­tries where this is armed con­flict, epi­demics, mal­nu­tri­tion, a lack of health care or nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

Miss Yapa had her first taste of travel with the or­gan­i­sa­tion in 2012.

She spent six months in South Su­dan as a med­i­cal doc­tor. She was based at a hos­pi­tal with 90 beds and ar­rived at the peak of di­ar­rhoea sea­son.

‘‘We had a child die ev­ery day within the first cou­ple of weeks I was there.

‘‘It was aw­ful and you feel re­ally stuck. Wit­ness­ing death on a daily ba­sis for months re­ally gets to she says.

‘‘It’s not like see­ing kids die here. When chil­dren die over there you know it could have been pre­vented through ear­lier hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sion or clean drink­ing wa­ter.

‘‘But you have to dis­tract your­self from get­ting too emo­tion­ally at­tached and know that if we weren’t there, many more would be dy­ing.’’

Her next mis­sion with the or­gan­i­sa­tion took her to Iraq for another six months last year where she worked in Syr­ian refugee camps.

A week af­ter re­turn­ing to

you,’’ New Zealand from Iraq the dev­as­tat­ing Typhoon Haiyan struck and Miss Yapa found her­self in the mid­dle of the tur­moil in the Philip­pines.

Set­ting up tem­po­rary hos­pi­tals in the worst hit area was the pri­or­ity.

Once reg­u­lar sup­plies and cargo came in, she was able to at­tend to the wounded with an­tibi­otics, pain relief and ban­dages.

Miss Yapa will move to Syd­ney next month to study a mas­ters in epi­demi­ol­ogy.

Medecins Sans Fron­tieres re­cruit­ment of­fi­cer Jenny Cross says work­ing abroad helps med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als to de­velop crit­i­cal skills like treat­ing un­com­mon dis­eases and car­ing for pa­tients with lim­ited re­sources.

‘‘Doc­tors have to rely on clin­i­cal di­ag­nos­tic skills be­cause of­ten there are no labs for blood tests.

‘‘Peo­ple test and chal­lenge them­selves and re­alise they can step out of their com­fort zone. It adds value to the work they do back home as they see things in a broader per­spec­tive,’’ she says.

Re­ward­ing work: Chatu Yapa in the Philip­pines.

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