Caring for the medical needs of refugees during epidemics and civil unrest

Dr Saschveen Singh is a tropical infectious disease advisor for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) who has helped some of the world’s most disadvantaged people through her work during epidemics and within conflict zones.

Her friends and family sometimes wonder why she does what she does.

“When I was placed at an Ebola treatment centre in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), my friends and family first asked me why on earth I wanted to go there; and, second, what I would do to stay safe from contracting Ebola. The thought of working in a complex disease outbreak setting is confronting enough, and then you have the added challenges of DRC’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces. These are conflict zones with a crippled health infrastructure, already struggling to cope with everyday killers such as malaria, pneumonia and malnutrition, let alone Ebola,” Singh wrote in MSF Stories and News.

In 2005, Singh completed her Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery at the University of Western Australia and then, in 2014, became a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

She completed a master’s degree in public health and tropical medicine with a focus on refugee health, humanitarian crises, infectious diseases, paediatric tropical medicine, and global public health policy.

In 2017, she began her work with MSF in Tanzania, caring for the medical needs of refugees fleeing from violent civil conflict in nearby Burundi. Since then, she has been on the front line with medical teams in the Democratic Republic of Congo, treating patients for tropical illnesses, including Ebola, amid civil unrest.

Dr Saschveen Singh demonstrates the decontamination process after treating Ebola patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Her work with MSF has included evaluating COVID-19 and measles outbreaks, as well as treating malaria and other neglected diseases of poverty.

Singh is an advocate for human rights and equitable access to healthcare, and back home in Perth has worked in general practice, adult and paediatric emergency medicine, refugee health, travel and occupational health.  

She is also a long-term volunteer for community radio station RTRFM, presenting on a music show – Drastic On Plastic – featuring women and gender diverse artists.

In November, she was recognised as a Western Australia state nominee for the Australian of the Year Award. You can watch the national Awards presented in Canberra on Wednesday 25 January at 7:30pm (AEDT) on ABC and iView.

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