Help FAZ readers: How the German Doctors work in the Mathare slum

Help FAZ readers: How the German Doctors work in the Mathare slum

MNorbert Kohl taps Kingsli’s stomach with his finger. “It’s not that bad now,” he murmurs more to himself than to his patient. Actually, he would like to prescribe nutritional advice and mint tea for the boy on his treatment table. The fourteen-year-old’s stomach isn’t particularly bloated. Nevertheless, he complains of severe flatulence and sometimes he feels dizzy. Kohl switched quickly and asked for a few details. But everything seems unremarkable.

Nevertheless, Norbert Kohl turns to his translator Janerose. He wants to know her opinion. “The mother said it started six months ago when he switched schools,” she says. Janerose has a theory: the water there is probably not clean. A bacterium could have infected Kingsli, who, like all patients, is only referred to here by his first name.

Medical specialist, but not a local expert

Norbert Kohl already suspected this bacterium. It’s not the first time for the 70-year-old pediatrician to practice in a developing country. But the symptoms, such as a bloated stomach, are so minor in this case that he is not sure. “In Germany we would do an antigen test,” he says. But there is none in Kenya – at least not in “Baraka”, the outpatient clinic of the German Doctors in the Mathare slum, the second largest in the capital Nairobi.

Listen and heal: The pediatrician Norbert Kohl and his translator Janerose examine many patients every day in the treatment room at the German Doctors' Baraka Health Center in the Mathare slum, the second largest slum in Nairobi.


Listen and heal: The pediatrician Norbert Kohl and his translator Janerose examine many patients every day in the treatment room at the German Doctors’ Baraka Health Center in the Mathare slum, the second largest slum in Nairobi.
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Image: Frank Röth

The level of medical care in Kenya is quite comparable to that at a German university clinic – if you can pay. For those who have little money, there are only poorly equipped state hospitals. Or external projects like the German Doctors. The organization sends voluntary German doctors to countries where there is a lack of basic medical care for several weeks. They usually use their annual vacation for this purpose and also pay for the flight themselves. The donations, which are also being asked for this year in the “FAZ readers help” project, go directly to medicine and the local employees, nurses and social workers.

Pediatrician Norbert Kohl and his translator Janerose examining a child in the treatment room.


Pediatrician Norbert Kohl and his translator Janerose examining a child in the treatment room.
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Image: Frank Röth

Norbert Kohl is not on vacation. He is retired, his wife now runs his practice in Bad Vilbel. He is still helping with his labor in Nairobi this fall. Five days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., he and his colleagues treat the residents of the slum in the Baraka – Swahili ambulance for “blessings”. He also heads the Association of Friends of the German Doctors in Frankfurt, an association of doctors from the Rhine-Main area who support the work of the German Doctors, whose headquarters are in Bonn.

Kohl is in Kenya for the first time. And because he knows that he’s a medical specialist, but not a local expert, he cares a lot about Janerose’s opinion. The local staff of the German Doctors translates from English into Swahili during the anamnesis. She tells the German doctor which symptoms the patients describe. She transmits the diagnosis to the sick. English is the official language in Kenya. In the slum, however, the main language spoken is Swahili. Janerose has been working there for a long time, in Mathare. And when she points to the bacterium from the dirty water as the cause of the pain in her stomach, Kohl listens to her. He can’t test anyway. He prescribes an antibiotic for Kingsli.



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