|A page from the Cambridge Expeditions Medical Handbook|
Flat on my back, beneath the Galaxy, I fear
This burning in my groin is gonorrhoea.
-- Tony Harrison, Manica
When I first went to Tanzania in 1980 my portable medical library comprised the Ross Institute's Preservation of Personal Health in Warm Climates and the Cambridge Expeditions Medical Handbook. The former, aka the Little Red Book, betrayed its origin in a milieu in which the nervous disposition of one's wife and the behaviour of one's servants were common concerns -- more, certainly, than they were to a 22 year-old explorer of the nether regions of Ujamaa (later in life, though, I could have done with an update). The Cambridge Handbook was much more useful, though its diagnostic tables tended to induce hypochondria. Instead of reading possible diagnoses from the combination of symptoms, it was much easier to pick on the worst disease and imagine the symptoms that were listed under it. And so every crick in the neck mirrored meningitis and every instance of colic conjured up appendicitis. Although this is a hazard associated with all self-help health guides, the Handbook's crude diagrams and simple matrices seemed designed to maximise the inflation of illness and a category of anxiety that the Little Red Book didn't cover.
|The cover of the 1979 edition|
|The Swahili version, c.1984|
The full text of Where There Is No Doctor can now be downloaded for free from the website of Hesperian Health Guides, together with other community health guides, including Where Women Have No Doctor and Helping Health Workers Learn. These and other resources are also available in a variety of languages, which can be seen at a glance on Hesperian's Resources by Language page. Unfortunately Mahali Pasipo na Daktari, the Swahili version of Where There Is No Doctor, is no longer in print: indeed there are no Swahili resources on the Hesperian site. That's a pity. An updated translation of this and other books, especially if well distributed and accompanied by relevant training, would go at least some way towards filling the medical knowledge gap in Tanzania and other parts of the region where Swahili is widely spoken.
Davies, T. W. Undated [c.1979]. Cambridge Expeditions Medical Handbook. Cambridge: Cambridge Expeditions Medical Scheme.
Harrison, Tony 1987. Manica. In Selected Poems (2nd edition). London and Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. 31-34.
Ross Institute 1978. Preservation of Personal Health in Warm Climates. London: Ross Institute of Tropical Hygiene. [first published in 1951]
Werner, David Undated [c.1984, 2nd printing]. Mahali Pasipo Na Daktari... Kitabu cha Mafunzo ya Afya Vijijini. Dar es Salaam: Rotary Club of Dar es Salaam.