Africa’s Trauma Epidemic

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Africa is facing yet another epidemic, a trauma epidemic, Ola Orekunrin argues:

Nigeria, a country of more than 170 million people, has no organized trauma response system and no formal training for paramedics. Injured people are often taken to the hospital in a car or minibus or draped across the motorcycle of a good Samaritan, sometimes several hours after the accident has occurred.

Even if the patient does reach a local hospital, it may not have the skilled staff or equipment needed. (There are only a few that do, and there are huge distances between them.) Most of those who are seriously injured probably bleed to death.

He describes a crash scene:

Bystanders were pulling the driver out of the car. Before long they were joined by a barefoot “prophet” in a white robe. No Nigerian accident scene is complete without a prophet who commands everyone to stand by while he loudly predicts that the patient will stop bleeding. The patient is often drained of blood by the time the prophecy is complete.

Africa is dangerous:

Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s smallest number of motorized vehicles but the highest rate of road traffic fatalities, with Nigeria and South Africa leading the pack.

The World Bank predicts that in the next two years, road accidents could be the biggest killer of African children between 5 and 15. By 2030, according to the Global Burden of Disease study, road accidents will be the fifth leading cause of death in the developing world, ahead of malaria, tuberculosis and H.I.V.

If you add to these numbers the injuries caused by violent crime and communal conflict, then you have all the ingredients for a public health emergency.

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