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How Much Does It Cost To Save A Life?

How much does it cost to save a life?

I have a theory. That your life is worth as much as what you have in the bank. If that’s true, how does that work out in Cambodia where one third of the population lives on less than USD1/day?

The reality is this…

Srey’s grandfather (pronounced as “tah” in Khmer) was sick with bloated stomach, the size of 2 watermelons and was having trouble excreting. Tah had fever and his joints were swollen. Srey was a TB patient, yet she looked relatively healthy compared to her Tah.

I urged the family to take Tah to the doctor. And they promised they would try. They were worried about the cost. When you live in poverty and your daily income is uncertain, being sick throws the family into desperation. Going to the doctor means borrowing from friends and neighbors. An exorbitant amount by their standards.

As I was in the rural areas, and network coverage was close to impossible. I couldn’t google but I knew Tah’s condition was serious. Without being able to excrete, toxins will build up in the body, possibly leading to infection and in the worst case scenario cause organs to fail. I told the family that I’ll help raise funds to cover the cost of his treatment (if he doesn’t qualify for the health equity fund) and that they should send Tah to the hospital before his condition deteriorated further.

Going to the hospital in Cambodia isn’t as simple as calling an ambulance or hailing a cab along the street. Due to the monsoon, the terrain might make it impossible to travel after a storm. As it turned out, the area was indeed flooded in two weeks later and Tah’s condition deteriorated too quickly. It was impossible to move him by then.

The family watched Tah die. If the family had acted quicker, if they weren’t so poor etc. There were too many ways this could have panned out. I would put it down to a combination of these – limiting health infrastructure, difficult terrain, poverty, low awareness, poor health seeking behavior, preference for traditional healers and lack of micro insurance etc.

How much would it have cost for Tah to receive first line of care at the health centre? USD 20. Would you have paid for it if you knew about it?

The next $500 raised in this campaign will be earmarked for helping needy patients, like Tah, receive emergency care. Save a life today.

– Written by:  Jacqueline Chen Hui Jie, Development Fellow, Operation ASHA (Cambodia)

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