Obituary: Dr Cicely Williams

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The Independent Online
JENNIFER STANTON's obituary of Cicely Williams (16 July) paid deserved tribute to a great woman, writes K. B. Asante. She belonged to the few whose dedication and humanity improved the quality of life in many lands.

When Dr Williams arrived in Ghana, my fingers could just touch my ears with my right hand over my head, proving that I was of the ripe age for school. At school we learnt songs to popularise Korle Bu Hospital built by the rightly revered Governor Sir Gordon Guggisberg. We naturally sang the songs we had learnt at home and it was believed that our mothers would be influenced. Korle Bu was then, for many, the feared place where people died: it was the place of last resort after local medicine men and women had been tried without success. It was a measure of Dr Williams's loving care and devotion that soon 'it became necessary to have the police keep order' among the crowds who flocked to her clinic.

The expensive experts and advisers who make little impact on the economic and social scene in developing countries have a lot to learn from Cicely Williams. She was not arrogant. She did not dismiss existing practices as uninformed, and what she was told as rubbish. She listened, observed and tried to understand so that she could build on what was true in the African tradition. She was rewarded in her clinical discovery of Kwashiorkor, and helped to save many a young child.

By her unaffected devotion, respect and love, Cicely Williams helped to liberate the colonised from narrow-minded categorisation and suspicion and made it possible for many to enjoy the richness of warm friendship between different peoples.