Dr Bradbury Fights Konzo

[one-half-first]My name is Dina and I live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa.

I am 13 years old. I live with my family in a small village 10 hours walk from the nearest city.

3 days a week my brothers and I walk 15 kilometres to the nearest school. At the moment I am learning mathematics.

After school I help our mother dig up cassava roots and collect cassava leaves. We turn the roots into flour.

It has not rained here for 2 months. Cassava is all we have eaten for the past 5 weeks. It tastes very bitter.

Tomorrow 2 of my brothers will begin to complain of aching pains in the legs. By next week their legs will be paralysed. The disease is called Konzo. Soon I will get it too.

One of my brothers will be able to move around the hut using two sticks. None of us will go to school. My family will have less and less to eat because I cannot help collect food and water and my brothers cannot work.

Soon the rain will come. Soon 2 of us will be dead. [/one-half-first][one-half]

My name is Dina and I live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa.

I am 13 years old. I live with my family in a small village 10 hours walk from the nearest city.

3 days a week my brothers and I walk 15 kilometres to the nearest school. At the moment I am learning mathematics.

After school I help our mother dig up cassava roots and collect cassava leaves. We turn the roots into flour.

Then we put the flour in a bowl with some water and cover it with a mat. We put the bowl on the roof where the snakes cannot get it. It sits in the sun.

This is what the scientists taught us to do.

It has not rained here for 2 months. Cassava is all we have eaten for the past 5 weeks. Leaving the bowl in the sun makes it taste good.

Tomorrow my brothers will help my father in the fields. Tomorrow I will collect water with my mother.

Soon the rain will come. Soon I will start learning history at school. [/one-half]

howard-bradbury

Dr Howard Bradbury began his time at ANU as a senior lecturer in the ANU Chemistry Department in 1961, and now works in the Research School of Biology. Howard has worked at ANU for 56 years, and 2016 marked his 28th year as a visiting fellow on no salary. It is in the latter part of his time on campus that he has been searching for a way to prevent Konzo disease, and at 89 years of age, he has been successful. It is safe to say that Howard is selfless, persistent and pretty bloody kick-ass.

Konzo is an upper motor neuron disease that causes irreversible paralysis of the legs. It is caused by the consumption of toxic levels of cyanide, commonly found in the plant Cassava. Cassava is in the same league as Howard when it comes to defying all odds – the plant is essentially drought resistant and guarantees a supply of starchy roots and nutrient-rich leaves during times of famine. The issue is that the worse the famine, the higher the cyanide levels in the plant, and the greater the likelihood of Konzo.

The disease is most often seen in young children and pregnant or breastfeeding women, simply due to combination of increased protein requirements and a state of malnutrition. From his own experience, Howard recalls that in about half of the cases of Konzo the individuals may be able to walk with sticks, but ultimately, that it is a death sentence. Today Konzo is prevalent in eight African nations, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo exhibiting the worst statistics.

Howard’s solution is the Wetting Method, which is essentially the process of mixing the flour extracted from the plant with water in a bowl, covering it with a mat, and allowing the cyanide gas to escape. The method is simple, and education is the key.

On Wednesday the 21st of September ANU will be raising money to help eradicate Konzo. This is not a case where your donations may end up covering administration costs at a large charity organisation. Any money you donate will help save lives.

So gather up your loose change and pop by our Booth in Union Court this Wednesday. We will have high spirits, lots of information, African beats, and a Cassava plant for your perusal.

Let’s support Howard in his quest to eradicate Konzo.

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