Can you put your arm through this hole?

Jin Zhu

Cristiana, a surgeon who has been on several missions with MSF, was our tour guide, and after the tour I asked her to take help hold this card up. In retrospect, I could've tried a couple of different things, but they were close to being done for the day and I didn't want to impose any more.

It's a hole little larger than a quarter demonstrating how thin malnourished children can get. Some 4 year olds actually can place their arm through the hole. Unimaginable. At that point, they are simply skin and bone. God knows how they survive, but somehow in the midst of that sort of famine, women still manage to be fertile, and carry pregnancies to term.

We chatted a bit and she told me about how grateful some patients are - one man whose appendix she removed keeps calling her every couple of months to thank her.

She also told of the opposite reaction, especially in Somalia, which has a culture of taking easily-gotten medication for everything, even when you don't really need it. Pharmacists will prescribe all sorts of unnecessary things to pad out their income for the day, so people are used to getting expensive medicines, uncommon medicines, so sometimes when the doctors on the mission give out a simple painkiller for something they can't or don't need to treat, the mothers throw the pills back at them and curse them. !

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