I had always been interested in work overseas since spending 4 months in South Africa on elective from medical school in 1988. I subsequently worked as a volunteer on several missions for Medecins Sans Frontieres and the HALO Trust (landmine clearance) in Afghanistan, Angola, Sri Lanka, Mozambique and Iraq over a period of 10 years.
The challenges of medicine in a severely resource constrained environment are multiplied by an often unstable and dangerous security situation. On the other hand the effect of a trained surgeon in these places is also multiplied – so you can be of more use to your patients who have no-one else to look after them.
With Medecins Sans Frontieres I worked in various hospitals in a clinical capacity. HALO Trust focused on clearance of landmines and other explosive ordnance that litter former war zones, so this involved medical logistics and casualty extraction as well as surgical work on victims of landmines.
Landmines and blast injury became my major interest – I was forcefully struck by the plight of people in former conflict zones – after enduring extreme poverty it seemed unreasonable to then have to risk being blown up by someone else’s discarded weapons. I felt a duty to try and help out.
There are pictures of some of the extreme surgical problems below – warning that these images are quite graphic and may not be suitable for everyone to view.
Manual mine clearance in Afghanistan 2000
Preparing tank shells for demolition, Afghanistan 1991
Eye injuries from landmine explosion Afghanistan 1991
An unusual cause of foot ulcers – leprosy in Sri Lanka 1998