Relax – don’t drink it

Hair relaxer is a mixture of chemicals to take out the kinks in African curly hair, so it can be styled more easily. Some relaxers contain sodium hydroxide, others use ammonium thioglycolate or guanidine hydroxide. All these chemicals burn the skin of the scalp if they are left on the hair for too long. I… Continue reading Relax – don’t drink it


The young man staggered into my consultation room and flopped down onto the chair. He was grimacing in pain and grabbing at his stomach. I asked him a few questions about the pain, but didn’t get many answers. “He has bellyache, isn’t it obvious, doc?” asked Daillies, my trusty translator. I explained that a hundred… Continue reading Witchdoctor

Paludism – or malaria to you and me

I don’t like to say this, but I am starting to struggle a bit during consultations. Being here for just three months means that it is not worth trying to learn the language well enough to be able to speak to patients with ease and accuracy. I usually have an interpreter, Daillies, who will chatter… Continue reading Paludism – or malaria to you and me

Circumcision Day

In Africa, it has been shown that male circumcision substantially reduces the risk of HIV transmission from women to men. Of course, using condoms will reduce the risk even further. The Ministry of Health has set Kakumbi Rural Health Centre a male circumcision target, and Nurse Martin Mwanza intends to meet it. When I arrived… Continue reading Circumcision Day

Vaccination Clinic

Nurse/Midwife Regina Banda looked resplendent in her white uniform, starched white cap and a garish yellow apron printed with slogans from Zambia’s eradicate polio programme. “I want to ask you a favour, doctor,” she began. Tuesdays are outreach clinic days, when a nurse travels to a nearby village to vaccinate the children. Nurse/Midwife Grace was… Continue reading Vaccination Clinic