Staying Healthy is your responsibility
Being well and looking after yourself is important as a volunteer abroad, as you may be several hours away from half decent medical care. Knowledge of the risks and what precautions to take are your responsibility and they shouldn’t be taken lightly.
I saw more volunteers get malaria than anything else and virtually all of them could have avoided it. Avoiding malaria is as simple as not getting bitten by mosquitoes.
Never leave yourself open to attack by mosquitos! Buy a net as soon as you get in country of there is not one provided, they don’t cost much and are nice and comforting to sleep under (and I am a big rough bloke!). Wear long sleeves and long trousers/skirts in the evenings and ditch the open sandals too, once it starts to get dark……..you have been warned.
Read up below and follow some of the links for more info. Remember, don’t be frightened or put off by all the possible dangers out there. Crossing a dangerous road is easy once you learn how to look both ways. It’s the same when volunteering overseas, learn the risks then follow the advice.
Official Advice for Volunteers about to go overseas
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have a travel advice section, country by country with up to date information gathered from their embassies all over the globe. Along with lots of general travel advice too. The FCO also maintain a list of places that they advise you NOT to visit……..
Health Information for Overseas Travel from the Archive of Official Documents is a large list of official health related issues all over the world with countries listed individually and some generic health advice “in case of”. Compiled with a whole bunch of doctors, with help from the Department of Health in the UK.
The Health Protection Agency has a great Travel Health guide. The HPA is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the UK government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards. It does this by providing advice and information to the general public, to health professionals such as doctors and nurses, and to national and local government.
If you are in a hurry (!) Here are some specific pages from the HPA:
Malaria for everything that you will ever need to know about malaria.
Travellers Diarrhoea which is pretty compulsary at some point!
Yellow Fever, although bear in mind that there has only 6 travellers have died form yellow fever since 1996 and all were un-vaccinated.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is another great resource for health advice with a development flavour. The WHO are active in pretty much every country in the world and have up to date info available for download and browsing.
Meds and other hygiene
Stratford Pharmacy are great for your Travel Medication needs. I used them to get my Malarone anti-malarials which were horrendously expensive in my local pharmacy.
Established in 2001, Stratford Pharmacy was the first licensed online pharmacy in the United Kingdom dealing solely with the private prescription marketplace and is now one of the leading suppliers of mail-order pharmaceutical products in the country with a great travel section.
Hand Hygiene gels from boots are great for maintaining good hand hygiene. Which is especially important for anyone living or travelling in developing countries as you may be exposed to many new bacterium. A quick squirt of a sanitizing hand cleaner will ensure that everything that you are eating is well and truly dead. Everything else is up to the chef!
ONE CAVEAT though……please, please be sensitive using a hand cleaner OK? Don’t be one of these eejits that shake hands with a local kid and immediately dive into a bag for the sanitizer. Because how offensive is that? OK?
A good practice when travelling and touching questionable surfaces/hands etc is to simply keep your hands away from your mouth etc (no fiddling with noses, beards, mustaches, chins etc) and just use the cleanser prior to eating. That way you won’t offend anyone.
Don’t forget, these are live pages, feel free to add your comments…………