Results of Fair Trees mobile health clinic for children of Ambrolauri, Georgia
In May earlier this year, the Fair Trees charity in Georgia (The Bols Xmas Tree Fund) provided a mobile health and dental clinic for the 386 children (2 to 18 years old) of the Ambrolauri region in Georgia.
There is very little healthcare in this remote area of Georgia. Here many of the locals live as subsistence farmers and supplement their meagre incomes with the dangerous job of cone harvesting every September. The cone pickers in this region climb the 30m high fir trees to collect the cones from which seeds are extracted and sold to the European Christmas tree industry.
Fair Trees sources cones using fair trade principles and set up The Bols Xmas Tree Fund to help improve the lives of people in this impoverished community (for more information see below). One of the Fund’s initiatives is to improve the healthcare provision for families of this region.
In May paediatricians carried out initial assessments of all children and then referred them to specialists where necessary. It is shocking to see how many medical conditions these children were enduring, without any medical care.
This is a summary of the doctors’ key findings on the health of the children in this area.
Scoliosis (curvature of the spine) – 15 children were diagnosed with this condition. If this condition is picked up at an early stage through regular health monitoring it can be treated much more effectively than once it is well established (at which point only surgery is an option).
Chronic tonsillitis – Most of the children were referred to ear, nose and throat specialists with upper respiratory problems. 150 of them were diagnosed with tonsillitis and for 75 of them it was chronic.
Iodine deficiency – there were several illnesses caused by iodine deficiencies including enlargement of the thyroid gland and resulting auto immune diseases. Due to the limited availability of seafood in this region, these children were prescribed with iodine tablets.
Compared to children in the capital city, the children of Ambrolauri were generally better developed physically and were more self-confident, but they were less able to manage personal hygiene. The children and their family members were given consultations about personal hygiene, good nutrition and healthy lifestyle.
Without Fair Trees these children would have continued to live with these conditions without any medical help. It is wonderful to see how Fair Trees is having a positive impact on the day to day lives of families that really need support.
Until Fair Trees came along the working conditions for the cone pickers were terrible; they had no safety equipment, received very little pay and had no health or death insurance. They simply leapt from tree to tree gathering cones in the hope that they would survive!
Fair Trees has licensed plots in Ambrolauri and collects cones under fair trade conditions; fair pay for the cone pickers, safe working conditions, community initiatives that help improve the lives for people in this impoverished community.
For the cone pickers who are not lucky enough to work for Fair Trees things have not changed – people are still being injured and dying every September. However Fair Trees is supporting the whole community though its healthcare initiatives.