I WAS working as a young doctor for Médecins sans Frontières in Somalia in the late 1990s when I realised for the first time how helpless I was in improving the health of my patients.
I was the only doctor for about 350 000 people. Every day, they’d come through the door, most of them with malaria or another preventable injury or disease, their lives literally in my hands.
As a doctor, I would never have the chance to make such a difference clinically as I did during those months. But I felt like I was just standing on the banks of a river, repeatedly diving in to pull people out, saving a life only to watch the next person slip into the water. Once I’d returned home from Somalia, I realised, nothing really would have changed.
What could be done, I wondered, to stop people falling into the river in the first place?
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