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Egypt’s ‘doctor of the poor’ dies

Dr Mohamed Mashali, a doctor in Egypt who provided healthcare to the residents of poor villages in Egypt, has passed away age 76
Dr Mohamed Mashali, 76, provided healthcare to the residents of poor villages in Egypt, 29 July 2020 [Affujahangir14/Twitter]

Egypt is mourning the death of a doctor dubbed “the doctor of the poor” who died at age 76.

Dr Mohamed Mashali became famous over the course of his career for providing health care to the residents of poor villages near where he lived in Tanta.

He specialised in endemic illnesses, bilharzia and worm diseases, which mainly affect poor people.

According to reports, he charged his patients 10 Egyptian pounds for a check-up, in contrast to other doctors who charge 40 pounds.

Sometimes he would waive the fees and buy patients their medicine for them.

Asked once in an interview why he only charged 10 pounds ($0.62), he replied: “Because people are poor and I grew up poor. Before my father passed away, he told me I should care for the poor.”

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“I don’t want a 10-metre long car, or a suit for a million or 10,000 pounds. Or anything. I’m content with very little things. A fool or falafel sandwich is enough.”

Mashali also said that his wife is rich and his children are comfortable.

In a now widely shared anecdote about what inspired his work, Mashali recalls a young boy begging his mother for an insulin injection for his diabetes, but she said no, because if she bought it, she would not be able to buy food for his brothers and sisters.

She only had money for bread and falafel.

The boy set himself on fire, telling his mother that it was so he was no longer a burden on the family and so that his siblings could eat. Mashali was called, but he was not able to save him and the young boy died in his arms.

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“I swore from that day forward I would dedicate myself to serving the poor,” he said in an interview with Deutsche Welle.

He added later: “Medicine is a humanitarian profession and not a commercial one.”

“One of the doctors that taught me in university once told me, ‘if you’re going into medicine to build an apartment or buy a fancy car do not study medicine. They should go into the stock market or international trade’.”

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