Subject: Funding win for a doctor who's making a difference; Hope for children

Echo (Free Suburban)

April 22, 2004 Thursday

Funding win for a doctor who's making a difference; Hope for children


PEDIATRICIAN Dr Bill McKellar is thrilled his submission to the World Health Organisation has helped prompt a study which could save thousands of East Timorese children.

Dr McKellar, who retired as medical director for women's and children's services at Geelong Hospital last year, volunteered to spend the wet season in East Timor this summer.

After 32 years as a pediatrician he was shocked to find one in nine children admitted to hospital in Dili died.

On his worst day Dr McKellar arrived at work to find three children had died overnight, and another three died during the day.

Dr McKellar returned to his Point Addis home depressed by the experience and certain that many of the children had fallen victim to Japanese encephalitis.

Last month he wrote a submission to the World Health Organisation requesting funds be made available to determine whether the mosquito-borne encephalitis is in fact East Timor's biggest child killer.

Dr McKellar said if his theory was proven, a simple and cheap vaccination would put an end to so many children dying unnecessarily.

A Timor-based World Health Organisation virologist contacted Dr McKellar last week to give him the good news that a study will be funded and undertaken by Dili health care workers.

"I'm delighted," Dr McKellar said.

He was reluctant to claim influence in prompting the study and said: "A lot of people have been talking about this and agitating and my submission was just part of that.".

East Timor had the worst rate of malnutrition in South East Asia, which left children with little fighting power against a range of mosquito-borne diseases including dengue fever and malaria, he said.

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