Fieldset
Off to MSF-land

My room is chaos. Boxes on top of boxes on top of more boxes, and books and clothes and a million things I have accumulated over the years. Believe it or not, I moved to the UK six and a half years ago with one single – albeit large – suitcase.  How did it multiply so?

Alice Gutreau

My room is chaos. Boxes on top of boxes on top of more boxes, and books and clothes and a million things I have accumulated over the years. Believe it or not, I moved to the UK six and a half years ago with one single – albeit large – suitcase.  How did it multiply so? I seem to have gathered more than I can handle and definitely way more than I need. The British Heart Foundation is in for a treat!

Among the boxes and the chaos, I have just added one last little bag: today I cleared my desk and emptied my locker at work. No longer am I a midwife at Queen Charlotte's Hospital. Writing it down somehow makes it final.

Alice MSF DRC

With my baggage and faithful Petit Ours Brun

It's been an interesting few years; I have worked in every department, spent more time in some than others and tried to soak up as much as I possibly could in every area with a view to doing exactly what I am about to do now. My next adventure is in MSF-land and it is one I have been waiting for since I can remember.

I knew I wanted to be a midwife since I read every possible book and saw every possible documentary a seven-year-old could see when my parents announced I was to be a big sister again. And I knew I wanted to work for MSF since... well, pretty much since then too, I guess.

MSF was always on the news in the 90s in France, and of course, they still are. War and suffering still isn't a thing of the past, it seems.

So this is it. They now call me an adult. Apparently, I have the necessary experience and expertise. And apparently, MSF still needs volunteers to help alleviate some of the pain and suffering going on in the world.

Tomorrow, I will have packed and sorted all of my earthly belongings; and my backpack, my faithful Petit Ours Brun who follows me everywhere (did I mention I was an adult?), my candid innocence and I will board a plane (or rather several planes!) on to my next adventure, the one I have been waiting on my whole life. Νo. Pressure.

Lulimba, South Kivu, DRC: I love this name. It is so musical.

The history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is somehow a lot less poetic and pleasant. The DRC is a massive country, around 10 times the size of the UK (four times the size of France) and home to over 80 million people. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, it was Belgian King Leopold II’s “personal humanitarian colony”: during his “philanthropic” reign, 10 million Congolese indigeneous died from the King’s infamous ruling and forced labour. In the 1960s, it finally gained its independence along with most of Africa.

Then ensued a long period of dictatorship, right up until the neighbouring Rwandan genocide in the mid-90s which spilled over into the neighbouring Congolese Kivus (two provinces about the size of England), and along with disputes over the region’s riches (minerals), political power struggles and land issues, it has fuelled a civil war now lasting over two decades.

The Congo is very rich in the minerals we prize the most in the Occidental world: gold, cobalt, copper… However, it is one of the poorest countries in the world, with one of the lowest life expectancies on the planet. It is also one of the riskiest countries in the world to have a baby: 77 women die of childbirth-related issues in the Congo for one woman in the UK or in France (693 per 100,000). Twenty percent of all births are not attended by a skilled attendant and each woman gives birth to six children on average. For every 100 children born, nearly eight of them will not live to see their first birthday.

Women and children are – as always – the first to suffer from a war that has been going on for years and years. Alongside all of this, outbreaks of cholera, malaria, TB and malnutrition wreak havoc in an already suffering population.

Wow. 36 hours before my departure, I make a vow: I will do my best to do my best.