Jorge Muñoz trained as a pediatrician in the UK where he spent nine years working as a doctor before coming to Majorca.

01-01-2000

When Jorge Muñoz is not caring for children here in Majorca, he  and his charity, Ayuda al Chad, are doing their best to look after children and their parents in Chad, but as Jorge admitted this week, the situation has become very complicated in Africa.
The origins of Ayuda al Chad date back to the year 2010 when Sister Magdalena Ribas, a Majorcan Comboniana  Missionary Sister and  Director at the time of Saint Bebedja Joseph Hospital in Chad, visited Jorge at the  Quirón Palmaplanas hospital.
During their meeting, Sister Ribas,who had spent  40 years working in Chad, requested financial support and staff to help them continue their work at the hospital.
That is  when Jorge and Dr. King Lladó, Pediatrician and Nutritional Expert, personally decided to organise  a first trip to see first-hand the needs and wants of the  hospital.
And, since then, every year at their own expense, they and a team of medics, doctors and nurses from all over Europe  who have volunteered to help Jorge’s cause, travel to Chad to provide new medical equipment, care  and training.
The charity  was formed with a clear commitment to the human and integral development of children and their families in Chad and has grown from strength to strength over recent years.
But, this year is proving one of the most challenging for Jorge and his team.
“We were due to travel to Chad in November but, after a long meeting, the team decided to abort this year’s trip. The first reason is the Ebola outbreak and the second is the rising lack of insecurity in Africa thanks to ISIS and other radical Islamic groups. It was a tough decision to make and it’s extremely frustrating , but we had to think about our own personal safety and that of our families,” Jorge explained.
“That said, we have got a huge shipment of medicines, clothes and footwear etc. which one of the leading international freight companies has offered to ship to Chad for free due to head down there before Christmas, so that’s going to make a big difference and we’re always fund raising and sending much needed materials and equipment down when we can.
“However, the recession has hit us and despite what the politicians are saying, from where I am sitting, we’re not out of the economic crisis yet and we’re having to depend on private donations or, as doctors, winning prizes for projects such as ours in Chad in order to keep topping up the funding. As far as the administrations are concerned, there is no money, so it’s tough right now.
“We’ve had to close the part of the hospital which attends adults, but we’ve kept the children’s’ wing open and we’re now taking in orphans once a week. We give them a proper feed, some lessons and  clothes.
“The renutritional school for parents is still operating and that is very important because that is where we teach the families how to make the most of  the local produce in order to ensure their children, and themselves, have a healthy and nutritional diet.
“But, I am in constant contact with the nuns working at the hospital. They are from all over Europe and they are terrified about the threat of Ebola. They have no means of detecting the virus but never turn sick people away, so they don’t know who they are treating and whether they’ve got the virus or not.
“Governments and aid agencies keep pumping out figures of how many have died and how many are infected but I don’t believe them..
“How can they have any idea of who has the virus and who has died from it in Africa. The country is vast and there are very few registries of births and deaths, how do these people know what’s happening thousands of miles away out in the bush or the jungles?” Jorge questioned.
But, just like he and his charity need official help and funding, so too does the war against Ebola in West Africa, or Africa as whole, he questions whether we really know the true extent of the virus.
“Look, it was first detected in 1970 but until it hit us here in the West, nothing was really done to combat the virus and since then, apart from getting stronger and more aggressive, it has started to travel. Africa is only a few hours away from the West on a plane and now it has hit us here in the West, action is being taken.
“Don’t forget, millions of people are still dying of hunger every day, but we still throw away thousands of tons of food on a daily basis because it does not affect us - if we started dying of hunger then  we would quickly change our attitude...
“So, come up with the vaccine and you can name your price, all the pharmaceutical companies are working round the clock to beat Ebola because now they have a market which has money, unlike the  Third World, so, here, we’ll soon have a vaccine and get Ebola under control.
“But in Africa, they face a massive challenge.
“It’s not just money they need, far from it. They need medical material, doctors need to have special isolation areas where they can treat patients and they just have not got the equipment and, in the conditions in which they live, the virus is spreading like wild fire - it’s highly contagious now and being viral, nearly impossible to control.
“When I think about it, it is soul destroying because this is a serious problem which could take years to solve in Africa, while here in the West, everything is being done to make sure we’re safe and sound as quickly as possible. OK, we initially made some mistakes, especially in Madrid, but we’ve learnt and we’re dealing with Ebola well, we’ve got in under control - it’s all about money and now that Ebola has hit the West, some people stand to make some serious money by tackling it - whether that will benefit Africa, we’ll have to wait and see,” Jorge said.
“It was the same with Aids,” he adds.
Are the parents of the children he cares for worried out Ebola here in Majorca? No, he says.
“Right now, at this time of year with many of the youngsters starting kindergarten for the first time, it’s respiratory problems that people are most concerned about. Now the kids are coming into contact with one another, there’s always one with a virus and that spreads, but that’s all part of building up their immune system and in the long run, it’s healthy.
“That said, I do know a number  of families who have packed up and relocated to Majorca from Madrid, put their kids in new schools  and intend to stay on the island until the Ebola scare dies down. I guess being an island, we’re isolated and safe.” Jorge said.
For more information go to www.ayudaalchad.com or follow Jorge on Twitter: @jorgemunozrueda

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