DOCTOR Gavin McColl reveals how Glasgow charity On Call Africa is tackling witchdoctors, malaria, malnutrition and snakes in Zambia. 

On Call Africa has used a £50,000 grant from the UK Government’s Small Charities Challenge Fund (SCCF) to offer medical support to rural areas of the country.

Last year it helped nearly 8000 Zambians by sending UK doctors into inaccessible rural villages, where they ran treatment clinics, health education classes and trained local community health volunteers.

The Glasgow-born doctor Gavin McColl (37) founded the charity ten years ago alongside doctors Kirsty Luescher and Simon Tolmie and international development specialist Malcolm Spence.

Dr Gavin McColl thinks it is essential we use resources to help poverty-stricken areas: “It is cliched, but why should where you are born dictate your prospects in life?”

He said: “Malnutrition is a huge issue and I think that is the most heart-breaking thing.

"There’s one little boy that really sticks out in my head. He had developed dysentery and he came to the clinic very late on in that process and was suffering a breakdown of skin we call pellagra.

READ MORE: Charity partnership to support Glasgow's vulnerable children

However, the family discharged him early and returned to their village. 

Dr McColl added: “You realise that they are all at this borderline nutritional level and if they start ploughing too much energy into this one child, then actually all of the other children will suffer and could die.

"If the mum and dad can’t tend to the farm, can’t improve the harvest that year, there is a significant knock-on impact to that village community.

“After extensive discussions and support from the local community the child returned to hospital to complete his treatment and he’s doing really well now.”

There is only one doctor per 16,000 people in Zambia compared to 600 in the UK so On Call Africa's work can be of vital importance. 

The 37-year-old said: “We are working hard through health education to confront beliefs, which can be harmful to people’s health. It was a real moment of kudos five or six years ago when the traditional faith healer started attending our clinic.

“The traditional healers unintentionally cause additional problems for individuals through by doing things like rubbing charcoal into small cuts as a remedy for backpain.

“Witchdoctors can do more harm and cause community division by blaming ill-health on someone putting a curse on someone else."

On Call Africa is now encouraging more Scottish charities to apply to DFID’s Small Charities Challenge Fund before the November 28 deadline.

Dr McColl added: "I would encourage other charities to apply for SCCF because it helps small charities like us to really make a difference tackling poverty in developing nations around the world."

READ MORE: Glasgow Spirit of Christmas helps thousands of disadvantaged children

International Development Minister Baroness Sugg said: “The UK Government’s Small Charities Challenge Fund exists to make sure small organisations, which do vital work around the world, get the crucial support they need to help us end poverty once and for all.

“UK aid has helped On Call Africa to scale up their work providing healthcare in hard-to-reach rural areas in Zambia.

“The fund re-launched this month and we are encouraging small charities from every corner of Britain to apply for an SCCF grant to help them make a difference.”