Kingston Farm

01 March 2009

We leave the burial and disinfecting team to get on with their business and four of us set off to Kingston Farm. I find out that actually it is now no longer a privately owned farm but rather a community which has taken over and each care for his or her crops.

J Stavropoulou | Huts at Kingston Farm.

Photo: J Stavropoulou | Huts at Kingston Farm.

We find the settlement of huts and our driver stops in an opening and starts honking his horn. Soon women, children and men all start gathering around the car. The health promoters explain the use of aquatabs, chlorine purification tablets to disinfect contaminated water, and the importance of washing hands and cleaning eating utensils.

J Stavropoulou | Kingston Farm kids

Photo: J Stavropoulou | Kingston Farm kids

There is one tall young man who is the acting chairman (the older chairman is being treated for cholera at the cholera treatment center (CTC). He is tall, well-muscled and handsome with fine chiseled characteristics. Since nobody has a car in the community, it has fallen to him to transport the sick cholera patients with his scotch-cart to the CTC. It took us 40 minutes to reach this place by car; I can’t imagine pushing someone all that distance.

The young handsome chairman is angry. He is shouting something to the whole community. I ask our driver what he is saying. “He is shouting to the women that they can’t wash the dirty clothes at the same place that the village gets their drinking water,” our driver explains, “he is telling them he is tired of taking people to the clinic.” I ask and find out that there are 85 households in this community; in the past two weeks 77 people got cholera from here and had to go to the clinic.

The health promoters hand out aquatabs, 30 per household, as well as oral rehydration salts (ORS). They explain how to use the tabs, and how the ORS (dissolved in water) is a simple but effective means to rehydrate patients suffering from diarrhoea.

J Stavropoulou |  MSF health promotion workers instruct Kingston Farm community members.

Photo : J Stavropoulou | MSF health promotion workers instruct Kingston Farm community members.

Then the village men take us to see their water source. We walk about ten minutes through fields of pumpkins, ground nuts, soya and maize. The community members are chattering excitedly to the health officials in front of me, while I get escorted by an extremely polite and solicitous young man who wishes to now about my country and how long I have been here.

We arrive at the water sources after ten minutes walk. It is a small river. Its flow is slow and lazy and at many places the water is still. They show us a half-meter hole they have dug next to the stream which has filled with stagnant water. From this they had been drawing water to drink. The health promoters are appalled. They tell them they have to cover this up and forget about it.

J Stavropoulou. | Looking into a borehole. Kingston Farm.

Photo: J Stavropoulou. | Looking into a borehole. Kingston Farm.

We leave the community behind and the team in the car is excited and pleased with the good work they have done. They tell me I will see that no more patients will come from this site. That there is no need to take over the clinic’s building and build a proper CTC. They tell me they don’t understand why people exaggerate this cholera crisis, that they have everything under control.

Next day though, seven more cases of cholera come from Kingston Farm.