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The medics on a mission

18 August, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Medic Jim Yong Kim (right) in Bending The Arc

Directed by Kief Davidson and Pedro Kos
Certificate 12a

POVERTY kills. That is the starting point for this extraordinary documentary that charts a three-decade campaign by health workers to save lives and gradually change the way, one human has good access to healthcare while another person does not.

Bending The Arc is the story of how a group of health workers and activists got together in a small Haitian village and tried to tackle the medical conditions they encountered.

Medics Paul Farmer, Jim Yong Kim and Ophelia Dahl were visiting the country and were stunned by how a basic lack of access to everyday drugs was killing thousands of people. They did not throw their hands up and say: “This is horrific but nothing can be done.”

Instead, they said: “This is horrific, what can we do?”

They got the resources needed to build a health clinic, and then started lobbying to find the drugs needed to deal with diseases such as TB. But, as this film shows, their work the best part of four decades ago was trailblazing – and their activism set a precedent for others around the world.

As Paul says: “Visiting Haiti then taught me to respect the destructive power of poverty. I thought to myself, how can we get this fixed?”

Partners in Health was formed, and their model of building clinics and pooling resources – often scant as they were lobbying to raise what they could – soon spread.

They went from Haiti to Peru and then to Rwanda. After attempting to show that TB can be tackled in poorer countries, they were in place as an HIV epidemic spread through the developing world.

Bending The Arc isn’t just about their heroic work. It is also a discussion about how drugs are made and sold, about the moral concept of investing in drug research, and then who can own a patent for something that saves lives, and how governments and the World Health Organisation work to alleviate common killer diseases.

This is an NGO that takes on how to build a public healthcare system in a holistic way, to help create peace and stability around the globe.

It’s a remarkable film about a remarkable group of people who have not been fazed by the huge task they have set themselves.

You may find, after watching this film, not just a deep sense of respect towards the leads but also a feeling that what you spend your days doing is rather pointless and distinctly unimportant in comparison to the people working for Partners In Health.


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