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Kani Torun

Kani Torun

Issue 59 August 2009

Dr. Kani Torun is CEO of Doctors Worldwide, an international charity that provides access to basic medical care in parts of the world where it is most needed.

“Doctors Worldwide was set up nine years ago by a handful of doctors including myself, after the Kosova war in 1999. Even though we were few in number then, we now have around 1200 registered volunteers. While all the board members are Muslim, as are many of the volunteers, 40% of them are non-Muslim. All members are from the UK, US and Turkey.
We operate in countries across the world including India, Bosnia, Palestine, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and many countries in Africa. There are three types of projects that Doctors Worldwide work on. One is emergency relief, the second is long term development, and the third is training. We set up field clinics in conflict areas or places that have suffered from natural disasters, like in Pakistan and Sri Lanka respectively.
In regards to development, we have many projects in the Congo, for example. I am due to go there next week; it will be my sixth visit. We are setting up primary care clinics in rural areas where there are no facilities available. If there are no maternity clinics, then a woman can die of childbirth as there are no facilities for C-section or for basic hygiene. The maternity mortality rate and infant mortality rate is at its highest in areas like these. In the West, the maternal mortality rate is 10 in 100,000, while in Africa, it is 1,000 – 1,500 in every 100,000.
Once, some of us were sitting in a café in the Congo, and the waitress came up to us as she knew some of the Doctors Worldwide staff. In that area workers receive as little as $15 a month, and she was so grateful that she delivered her baby at one of our clinics at no cost. ‘You served me, and now it is my time to serve you,’ she told us.
We operate in both Muslim and non-Muslim countries and provide medical care for anyone, regardless of religion. The Congo, for example, is 90% Christian and 10% Muslim; the Muslims have little power. Our work not only helps them in terms of healthcare, it also helps give them confidence, and they feel that they are not alone. The presence of Doctors Worldwide also helps community relations; once when we opened a maternity clinic there, the local health minister attended the opening. He said that the image of Muslims there was not good, but he could see first hand what life-changing work we were doing.
Wherever we set up clinics and training, we always work with local authorities, NGOs and local doctors. Our volunteering provides the additional support that is needed there. We help, we do not replace. In fact, many local doctors have secured jobs in our new clinics and hospitals, where we can offer further medical training. The idea is that when we leave, they can carry on offering the same services.
All of our volunteers are fully qualified doctors, and now we also have qualified nurses. Volunteers can give as little as two weeks support in the countries we work in, and some even take time out to work up to four to six months.
We opened up a 40 bed hospital in Lubumbashi, and the day after the opening ceremony, the first baby was delivered there. The mother asked staff for the name of the man who opened the hospital as she wanted to name her baby after him. That man was me. She named her new baby boy, Kani. Every time I visit the hospital, she happily brings her baby to see me.
 This is not a typical 9am–5pm job; it is all and any hours. I am the point of call for many volunteers, which means that sometimes, in the middle of the night, I might receive a call from one of them to say s/he is at the airport in say Kenya, and I have to ensure that logistics are carried out. My phone is always ringing.
I really enjoy my work; when I am in these countries setting up clinics and meeting with the local people who benefit from them, I am happy to see such a change for the better taking place. We want to help people, we want to provide the medical care that every human being is entitled to in this world and hope our organisation continues to grow.”

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