Review: Amanda McClelland – Emergencies Only

Emergencies Only:
An Australian nurse’s journey through natural disasters, extreme poverty, civil wars and general chaos
Amanda McClelland

“In 2015, Amanda McClelland was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal, in recognition of an extraordinary career dedicated to making a difference. As a nurse and a humanitarian aid worker she has battled against extreme poverty, disease epidemics and natural disasters, helping to rebuild broken lives and strengthen communities across the globe.”

I expected something more like Aussie Midwives or Island Nurses with more individual nursing stories. What I got though was a discussion of humanitarian aid and her movements from plain nursing through to team management and recommendations. Everything is underlined by her compassion and practicality as well.

Ew! Some of these stories are likely to horrify a weak-stomached reader. I couldn’t stop thinking about her just casually slicing out a pus filled ulcer on her chest! Others are just horrifyingly sad – mothers who lose their lives and also their babies, or babies that can’t possibly survive. She’s not a midwife, but looking after children and improving mortality rates ends up being a huge part of her job.

In a way, this book reminds me of How (not) to Start an Orphanage – it has both what should and shouldn’t be done, and talks about the hardships on essentially white people living in third world countries. Sometimes the interventions create more problems than they solve. Amanda really illuminates how the best of intentions can lead to problems if they aren’t carried out with the community’s support and full understanding.

What upsets me in general (not about this book at all) is how sometimes things at home should have been fixed before we go elsewhere to aid others. Amanda works in an indigenous community that is filled with drug and alcohol fueled violence and horrible living conditions in places. Maybe we should try to work out how we can help our own people first?

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