April 7, 2023

World Health Day


For over two years, Rashida has put every penny aside in Tanzania and waited for this day. Before the sun rises and the rest of the family wakes up, she gets dressed, eats a bowl of rice for breakfast and sets off. More than four hours of walking over stony ground lie ahead of her. But she is early, so she will arrive before the midday heat.

At the same time in Germany, Martina looks at the alarm clock. She still has two hours to sleep before she has to leave. It annoys her a little that she has this appointment today. 'But what must be done, must be done,' she thinks and turns over in bed again.

After walking for two hours, Rashida takes a short break, sits down on a stone and takes a sip of water from the small bottle she has put in her pocket. Now Martina gets up too. She washes up, eats breakfast, flicks through the newspaper and then sets off.

Both women are in their late thirties. Both have a journey of around 25 km to their appointment today. Both have the same appointment. Both are visiting a gynecologist for an important cervical cancer screening. Yet the differences could hardly be greater: While for Rashida the examination is the first time, for Martina it is an annual routine. Costs and logistics are not an issue for the Germans: the doctor can be reached quickly and the costs are covered by health insurance. The appointment is not associated with any risk. Rashida, on the other hand, resisted the examination for a long time: she was too afraid of the uncertainty of what to expect. The long, arduous journey and, of course, the high financial burden on the family if she undergoes this examination. But Rashida is still very lucky: her husband knows how important the visit is, and after noticing discomfort in his wife's lower abdomen, he finally managed to persuade her to go to the appointment. This is by no means the norm in rural regions like here in Tanzania: in most cases, men and society have no understanding for such examinations; on the contrary, gynecological problems in particular are often concealed out of shame.

Martina is back home an hour later. Everything had gone well. Only when she prepares her evening meal will Rashida slowly return to her hut and her family. But she will also be glad, because now she can be sure that her symptoms are not a threat.

Today, on World Health Day, we should keep reminding ourselves of how incredibly lucky we are with our healthcare: there are 45 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany - not even a tenth of that number is available to an African citizen. Not to mention the medical quality and hygiene. It should therefore also be in the interests of all of us to share our good fortune a little with those people who don't have it. After all, we all know that 'happiness shared is happiness doubled'!

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