In 2011, a group of UWAA members and their guests, traveling to Africa with UW Alumni Tours, visited Chiawa, a small village on the banks of the Zambezi River. While there, one of the group members, Al Jones, M.D. ’63, was asked to take a look at a boy suffering from severe skin and scalp infections. The diagnosis was straightforward: the boy, named Arnold, had ringworm.
Arnold was not alone. Many of the village children had ringworm, a highly contagious fungal infection marked by distinctive circular patches of discolored skin, surrounded by a raised border.
Another doctor who had visited the village had purchased and sent along a box of medicine through a clinic in Lusaka, but no one in the village knew what to do with it. Dr. Jones discussed with the children’s mothers how to use the medicine—an antifungal and antibacterial ointment. He also shared tips for treating ringworm: for example, children often need to have their heads shaved, since the fungus can live inside hair follicles. The following April, Jones received an email from his guide, telling him that ringworm had been eradicated from the village.
“This illustrates the great need these small villages throughout Africa have for bare bones medical help,” says Jones. “Even medical personnel just passing through can have an impact.”
It could have ended there. However, since their visit, this group has kept in contact with Chiawa and each other. They are in the process of setting up a solar-powered refrigerator to store medicine, and have sent a shipment of soccer balls for the children to play with.
“I’m excited and proud of the positive impact UW travelers are making for this small village,” says Pauline Ranieri, director of UW Alumni Tours. UW travelers will return to the Zambezi region several times in 2014 and 2015 through the “Africa’s Wildlife” tour. (See all of UW Alumni Tours upcoming Africa journeys)