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Doctor from Whitechapel travels to Africa to assist with facial surgery

PUBLISHED: 15:32 12 April 2012

Some of the people with facial disabilities in Ethiopia helped by charity Project Harar Ethiopia

Some of the people with facial disabilities in Ethiopia helped by charity Project Harar Ethiopia

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A newly qualified doctor from Whitechapel is travelling to Ethiopia tomorrow to help improve the jobs and marriage prospects of young people with facial deformities and injuries.

Fiona McClenaghan, 25, who only last month sat her final exam at the Barts and London Medical School, is the youngest of fourteen medics volunteering to treat up to 50 children and young people from rural Ethiopia at a hospital in the capital of Addis Ababa. The team will also help train local medical staff.

Thousands of children across Ethiopia suffer from facial disabilities, including from animal attacks, accidents, dental problems or facial tumours, according to Harar Ethiopia, the UK medical charity organising the trip.

Dr McClenaghan said: “There is only one doctor for every 70,000 children in the Ethiopian countryside and it’s very difficult to get to the main cities.

“Two of the children we’re treating were mutilated by Hyenas and others are victims of road accidents as road safety is very different out there.

“Things like wound infections, dental problems and cleft lip and palate, which are relatively easy to treat in Britain, if left for a long time can cause problems with eating and speaking.

“It can cause a lot of problems when looking for jobs and especially for young women if they can’t find a husband.

“If we can help a small amount of people then I hope we can make a small difference.”

Dr McClenaghan explained that as junior doctor she will assist senior surgeons during facial operations and help nurses with the aftercare of patients during her six-week stay.

“I will hold and pass surgical instruments and close the wound.

“Afterwards I’ll help clean the marks, and make sure the children are well nourished so the wounds heal properly.

“I’m very excited because on one hand it’s an amazing opportunity. On the other it’s the unknown as I’ve never been to Africa before.”

The trip is being funded by the charity Harar Ethiopia.

Dr McClenaghan who achieved a distinction in clinical medicine will work as a junior doctor at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel on her return.

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