Thursday 30th August 2012
By Janine Ewen, MSc Health Improvement at the Robert Gordon University
In June of this year, I left my home in Aberdeen to travel to Kenya, to complete a 5-6 week expedition with First Aid Africa. First Aid Africa is a non-profit organisation that has set up a number of projects to teach first aid, currently in Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya. Next year, the charity is hoping to expand into Uganda. Having done volunteering with the Red Cross, and after being inspired by stories about Africa, I chose to work with First Aid Africa.
The World Health Organisation has recently identified that, in Africa, there are more minor/major injuries than there are tuberculosis, Malaria and HIV put together. That is why I wanted to help First Aid Africa in particular. First aid education and equality in emergency care is one of the biggest public health issues facing the world today, and I hope to organise a big push and lobby support from everyone to get first aid education on the national curriculum in the UK. I plan to spread the word by targeting my local radio health show, and organising meetings with parliamentary figures in the Scottish government and across the UK.
African education is characterised by a very strict education regime; education is highly valued in the hope that one day the continent can evolve and become a nation rich in good health, good opportunities and with governments which listen to the people. However, even in strict schools, teachers know the value of first aid, so they allowed us to teach lessons. Sometimes we did not get as much time as we wanted, but by making a good first impression, this allowed us to develop a positive working relationship with the schools, which meant that we were asked to come back and teach. The children took the teaching really well, as did everyone else who we taught in the rural towns. One of the main things that excited me about this particular project was the sustainable resources we teach with for first aid. Even being back in the UK, I believe that Sanitary towels are one of the most important inventions ever. We encouraged people to use them, instead of western bandages. Although we were giving out some first aid kits, they were of limited supply. The sole purpose of sanitary towels is to absorb blood, so there is no reason why they cannot be used to help treat blood related injuries. In Africa they are accessible, cheap and just as effective. According to research, the towels are ,in fact, more effective than first aid western bandages, which makes me wonder why we cannot use them for similar reasons in the UK.
Some of the resources, I feel, are things we can all use, even the Red Cross and St Johns Ambulance, or even hospitals! It is possible that we are spending too much money on fancy bandages when we have life necessities around us, which can work just as well or even better. Why can’t we use a jumper or a t-shirt to improvise a triangular bandage for an arm sling? Why can’t we treat burn related injuries with soda, if the burn has a plastic covering around it, if at that point in time we don’t have clean water, but a bottle of coke in our bags? I think we need to start looking on where we could make life easier for ourselves; it is not just about the money, but finding the things that are nearest to us in an emergency situation.Everyone, especially the children, really enjoyed first aid, and I think that is because of the practical element that learning about it can bring. Education should be fun and interactive, with practical aspects that help to keep children motivated, and help them to learn better. First aid has to be supported by practical demonstrations, so we encouraged the children to volunteer in scenarios on the role of the first aider and what the first aider should do to treat an unconscious casualty, for example. I had a fantastic time, and I will continue to campaign and teach about this issue and others.
To find out more about First Aid Africa, follow the link below to their website