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Profile - Criag Burgess

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 01 October 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:0210376
  1. Catriona Richardson, Freelance medical journalist

This humanitarian aid worker tells Catriona Richardson about his life working for the aid agencies Médecins Sans Frontières and Merlin

When the children of the Dinka and Nuer tribes of southern Sudan make clay models they make planes--they can't make cars because they have never seen one.

I worked with the Dinka and Nuer tribes for a year as the only medical doctor on an isolated project in western Upper Nile. It was one of the most fascinating experiences of my life. After finishing my general practitioner training, I wanted to work in a developing country and applied to Médecins Sans Frontières, which sent me to Sudan for a year.

The programme included managing kala-azar, tuberculosis, brucellosis, and primary healthcare conditions. This was mainly hands-on clinical work, including diagnosing and treating tropical diseases that I had previously only read about. We lived in mud huts and were completely cut off from the outside world apart from planes arriving every two weeks with supplies. It was a totally different way of life with no vehicles and no currency, as everything was bartered for, including wives, with bars of soap and cows.

A year later I went to Herat in western Afghanistan, where I was project coordinator providing health care to a camp of …

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