By Abraar Karan
Imagine your 7-year-old son’s face, abdomen, and legs begin to mysteriously swell one morning. Your initial reaction as a parent would likely be to worry first. However, your second instinct is probably to rush to your computer and search the internet for what might be going on.
This is easy enough for the roughly 72% of people in America who have a computer with internet access in their homes.
Now, imagine you are no longer in America but in rural Mozambique. And, unfortunately, you are not part of the 3% of the population that has access to the internet. Even if you were able to get online, let’s say that you are also not part of the 47% of the population that is literate, rather the majority that would have no way of navigating a website like WebMD where most of us in America would within minutes find a list of possible causes and could begin to guess that a doctor’s visit was necessary.
Spending a day on the pediatric ward in a public hospital in Mozambique, I began to think about what it is like to be one of the many mothers accompanying their children for treatment of what are often life-threatening conditions. For the most part, the women have no idea what is going on with their sons and daughters, and the cases arrive at the hospital in extremely advanced states, almost the opposite of the US where anxious parents regularly bring their children in for relatively harmless coughs and colds. I saw several swollen faces, abdomens, and legs that day, many of them cases of childhood nephrotic syndrome, a condition that responds well to steroid treatment but can be dangerous if left untreated for too long.