Drawing portrait of Gamal Albinsaid - Copyrights : credits - Peter James Field

Trash Doctor

In Indonesia, Dr. Gamal Albinsaid treats patients in exchange for their garbage. An ingenious solution that tackles two problems: health care for impoverished people and urban pollution.

The Garbage Clinical Insurance initiative began in 2010: Gamal Albinsaid was only 20 and just starting out as a doctor. He came up with the concept of medical micro-insurance after hearing about a dustman’s young daughter who died from diarrhea because her family couldn’t afford treatment. For a young man who had dreamt of being a pediatrician since he was a child, the story was intolerable.

In Indonesia, where half the population lives on less than two dollars a day, the poor aren’t able to access health care. According to Gamal Albinsaid, over 60% of Indonesians are uninsured. "You have people who can’t go to the hospital because they don’t have money," he told the magazine Fast Company. "So I started thinking, if you don’t have money, what do you have?" Garbage. Garbage littering the ground.

In 2013, Gamal managed to raise the money to open the first Garbage Clinic in Malang, his hometown in eastern Java. People get two free visits to the doctor per month – but in exchange they have to collect at least 10,000 rupees (under a dollar) per month of waste and take it to the clinic once a week. They then get treatment for free, regardless of the health problem.

The best thing about the idea is that it tackles two of Indonesia’s most serious problems – health care for the poor and pollution, which with its rapid population growth plagues the country.

The best thing about Gamal Albinsaid’s idea is that it tackles two of Indonesia’s most serious problems – health care for the poor and pollution, which with its rapid population growth plagues the country. Since Garbage Clinics were set up, lots of people can be seen picking up garbage in the streets of Malang. Gamal Albinsaid has managed to change people’s perceptions and habits by transforming waste into a resource. What happens to it? It’s transported to a processing center where the organic waste is turned into fertilizer and sold to farmers, and the plastic bottles, cartons and metal are bought by recycling companies.

There are now five Garbage Clinics in Malang, providing work for dozens of volunteers, doctors and nurses. Over 3500 patients are already benefiting from the program. Gamal Albinsaid is now 26 and runs his start-up, Medika. His concept has been exported worldwide and has won several awards. Revealed by Unilever’s Young Entrepreneurs Awards 2013, the young man received his award from Prince Charles for his project. He now wants to develop Garbage Clinics throughout the Indonesian archipelago – and why not all over the world?

Find out more:

- A portrait of Gamal Albinsaid by the Jakarta Post in 2014
- Rubbish for Healthcare, the Garbage Clinical Insurance project page on the Unilever website

Main picture: Drawing portrait of Gamal Albinsaid - Copyrights : credits - Peter James Field

 

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