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MEDICAL NEEDS, however, go far beyond inoculations. It is recovering
not only from the direct conflict 18 months ago, but also from years
of repressive Serbian government policies. For nearly a decade before
NATO bombs fell, Kosovo Albanians had been living with an underground
health system. Serbs had forced ethnic Albanian doctors out of hospitals
and medical students out of schools. Textbooks and reference materials
written in Albanian were destroyed. Record-keeping broke down.
due the best they could, ethnic Albanians set up clinics in private
homes. Doctors tried to help half-trained medical students complete
their education, offering lessons. But access to health care, medical
supplies and drugs declined dramatically.
days when I did not visit clinics, I worked at my group's office
in Pristina on projects designed to address long-term needs. One
of my major tasks was to develop health-record cards for women.
Because the health-care system is still so fragmented and many people
never see the same doctor twice, it is not practical for records
to be kept at clinics or doctors' offices. Many women came to our
clinic carrying little bunches of paper scraps, documentation of
past visits with other doctors. We wanted to make formal cards that
patients could keep and take with them whenever they went to a doctor.
looked for other ways to make a long-lasting difference. With few
reference books available in the Albanian language, the doctors
and nurses of Kosovo can look only to materials written in Serbo-Croatian
or another foreign language. Many ethnic Albanians are interested
in forgetting everything Serbian, so English is the tongue of choice.
We spent a good deal of time tutoring our hosts in English and showing
them how to look up information on the Internet. We brought boxes
and boxes of American books to leave behind.