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Royal Roads assist. prof. wins 2018 Untold Global Health Stories Contest

March 21, 2018
By: 
Lisa Weighton
Athena Madan

At nine years old, H. was recruited to produce and traffic cocaine in Colombia, a country that produces more of the illicit drug than ever before.

Children are “ideal for mixing and filtering—through straws in their mouth—excess gas, cement and lye from the cocoa leaves,” writes Athena Madan, assistant professor in the School of Humanitarian Studies.

She was selected as a winner of the Global Health Now’s 2018 Untold Global Health Story Contest for her submission, Children Trafficked for Cocaine Production in Columbia.

The contest is designed to increase visibility about important but underreported health issues from around the world.

Madan met H., whose name is protected, in 2015. She was in Columbia completing research for her post-doctoral degree in Global Mental Health from the University of Toronto.

At that time, H. was in his twenties and freshly released from an 8-year prison sentence.

“His stomach hurt too much to eat anything more than shredded lettuce; drinking pop hurt his nose; tea hurt his throat. He’d not gone to the bathroom for two days. He was also worried for his family, who had been cut off from Cartel remittances and were now very poor,” Madan writes in her winning submission.

“There was a fair amount of emotional residue after meeting H. His experience is brutal, but I learnt it was not unique,” she says. “I’m thrilled that my submission was selected and I’m grateful for the platform to promote and mobilise awareness for H’s experience.”

The contest is a collaboration between National Public Radio (NPR), Johns Hopkins University, the Consortium of Universities for Global Health and Global Health NOW (GHN).

Winning entries will be covered by NPR and will appear in both NPR and GHN.