Desmond Doktah

The dwindling band of regular readers of my blog may recall the story in 2014 of a Zambian child who would shout out “Doktah! Doktah!” whenever I drove past their house just a hundred metres from the clinic. It didn’t matter if the little girl was having a bath in a tin tub or squatting down having a pee, when I went past, up went the cry, “Doktah!”


For the first month I couldn’t drive down that road because it was a muddy quagmire. Now the track has dried out, I can inch my way along it. Taking this route cuts half a kilometre off my journey. I looked for the child but none of the faces registered. One of the houses looked boarded up and I thought that perhaps the child had moved away.

I stopped by a compound and asked a woman about the child. She said the child was at primary school at present, but she would bring the child to the clinic after school. Later that day, a mother and child waited to see me. The child looked too old to be the one I remembered, and sure enough, when I showed them the photographs, they shook their heads. Mistaken identity. But they did know who it was in the pictures and they offered to pass on a message.

The following day as I arrived at the clinic at 8am, I heard, “Doktah!”. I saw a smartly dressed child in preschool uniform, perched on the crossbar of a bike, ridden by the mother. The child waved and I waved back. Mum stopped the bike and brought the child into my consultation room. I showed them the pictures of an infant in a tin bath tub, being soaped by their mother. They recognised themselves instantly. But the little girl was actually a boy, Desmond.


Mother told me that it was very costly paying for preschool (primary school is free in Zambia, by law) and she wondered if I could find a sponsor for Desmond’s education. I said I would make inquiries. Desmond was late for school by now, so he climbed aboard mother’s bike and she got onto the saddle, a baby strapped to her back. I steadied the bike then gave them a push start, managing to run ahead and take some photographs.


What a great start to the day.

By Dr Alfred Prunesquallor

Maverick doctor with 40 years experience, I reduced my NHS commitment in 2013. I am now enjoying being free lance, working where I am needed overseas. Now I am working in the UK helping with the current coronavirus pandemic.


  1. We send support to a Massai family directly through PoPay in Africa. The family gets 100 percent of our donation.

    1. That’s great and very efficient. But targeting the poorest of the poor and strictly monitoring how well the child is doing is also an effective solution.
      I do see some young people here who have had sponsorship from childhood, and as a result, they have not needed to struggle as their financial support is guaranteed. I am not saying it will happen to the family you support, but sometimes it gets taken for granted, and the children feel entitled to succeed, without having to work hard, and this generates dependency. It is a moral dilemma.

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