Abidjan (Ivory Coast) -- Project Wassa

Project Wassa is a medical and social service initiative started by students and young doctors through the Association pour le Développement Social et Culturel (ADESC).

Those involved are students of the Health Sciences and medical interns. The majority take part in the formational activities offered by the Comoë Cultural Center. The target area for the project is Wassa, a suburb of Abidjan that is lacking in any health infrastructure.

The inhabitants of Wassa come from all regions of the Ivory Coast and also from neighboring countries: Burkina-Faso, Mali, Ghana, Togo, Senegal, Mauritania. The living conditions in the shanties of the neighborhood are quite precarious. The only work available for the men is as cooks or caretakers in the houses of nearby areas. Some women carry out small commercial activities (selling cold water, bread, etc.) to help support their family.

Project Wassa began in June 2006. Every Saturday the volunteers go to Wassa to look after “their friends” (as they call their patients, with whom they have a very cordial relationship). The return home, at the end of the session, is usually delayed because often there are more patients than time available to care for them.

Each session involves five types of activity: informing patients about the sicknesses they are exposed to, checking blood pressure, temperature, etc., consultations, caring for injuries (especially of children), and distributing medications. The average number of patients is 68 per session. The number of doctors and students who help out varies between 15 and 20.

During the first sessions the most common illnesses found were intestinal infections, salmonella, malaria and scabies. These are all sicknesses that stem from the unhealthy environment and lack of hygienic facilities. This fact moved those in charge to insist on preventive measures, since it would be useless to give medicine if nothing was done to prevent the infections from returning. What proved very effective was making large posters explaining how to avoid these sicknesses and stressing the importance of cleanliness.

The project has been a wonderful experience for everyone. It enables students to put into practice what they learn at school, and above all to appreciate the responsibility of putting their time, energy and knowledge generously at the disposition of the needy.

Romana, n. 44, January-June 2007, p. 156.

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