A doctor in DRC: A wifi window to the outside world

09 October 2017

Ludvig has recently completed an assignment as part of MSF's emergency team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He's shared his diary with us. Today he talks about the work of fighting an outbreak in the remote village of Bolomba...

 
Two weeks in Bolomba and I'm slowly creating a life here, as far as it goes. I'm writing this in a hurry. It turns out that manna is raining from heaven today, in the form of wifi via satellite at Bureau Centrale de la Zone de Santé. 20 minutes of communication with the outside world: maybe I will download a newspaper in PDF format. I'm so totally cut off from the global news flow here; if a new world war broke out I wouldn't know about it.
 

Photo shows a malnourished child's legs. The thighs are similar width to the calves.
Photo: Ludvig Bolinder / MSF.
 
My life here is beginning to take shape. The days are very similar to each other and the smallest variation suddenly feels very exciting. I've begun to understand why MSF's presence in Bolomba causes so much excitement and interest from the population here; it is simply the only exceptional thing that has happened here in a very long time.
 
Something else that happened during the two weeks we've been here is that the mission has grown. From the outset, we had planned only to work in the northern two-thirds of Bolomba, where the measles epidemic started about a year ago. Unfortunately, and unexpectedly, the epidemic has now spread to the southern third. And if the northern part of Bolomba is inaccessible, then the southern part is even worse. There are no villages, but there are campsites along the rivers inhabited by pygmies. In addition, the prevalence of acute malnutrition is high there.
Unfortunately, and unexpectedly, the epidemic has now spread
Consequence: MSF needs to expand the intervention by at least 100%. This means a small hospital, several mobile clinics and a 15-member vaccination team. What this means for me and my participation is unclear. It may be that it's decided to set up the new intervention in the south separately from our existing one in the north. Another, quite likely, option is to move one of the two MSF doctors working here to the south side. I pray to God that it won't be me.
 
Otherwise work here goes on. We work long days, but it feels meaningful and quite good. Today, however, was a heavy day; when I arrived in the morning, I heard the heartbreaking scream of a desperate mother who just lost her four year old son. Our second death since the start. I had taken care of the boy and was responsible for him. I wonder if I could have done something different. And I wonder if the boy would had survived at a hospital back home in Sweden. The answer to the second question is probably yes. It feels heavier than it might do. I comfort myself by trying to remember all the children we have been able to save. And they are many, many more.
 
Now, my Wi-Fi window is soon closed to the outside world, so I have to stop.
 
 
 
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