The Logistical Coordinator is in town arranging some things. Him and I buy some items in Lae to send to our project in the highland. In the highlands MSF staff have changed a dilapidated hospital that injured people used to walk past into a functioning hospital by providing staff, expertise, repairs
and equipment. Since late 2008 the hospital is providing emergency care to the local population for the first time in 15 years. We arrange a shipment of mattresses, mechanical equipment and water containers to enable proper hygiene.
The same day it is due to arrive, we hear worrying news from the highlands – a drunk guard attacked our team. 2 are injured and the vehicle is damaged. MSF take the security of the staff seriously and charter a plane to evacuate them until things calm down – things can escalate quickly in Papua New Guinea.
The next day the incident makes the front page of the national newspaper. We relax when we learn that the injuries are relatively minor – my counterpart needs some stitches and the highlands boss has some bruises from where she was struck with a torch. Over the next few days I realise that everyone in Lae knows who I work for as strangers approach me in the supermarket to tell me how sorry they are that we were subjected to this. Staff come in on their days off to apologise for their countryman's actions.
I spend the next week or so being the busiest man in the world. The night before last our area had a blackout, not an uncommon situation, we tend to loose power every few days, but unfortunately this coincided with the generator breaking down. No power presents numerous problems. No power means no fans and very hot expatriates. No power means no lights which
makes our security guards nervous. No power means our pharmaceutical store gets hot. Medecins can't be hot for very long without becoming useless. Vaccines, however, can't get hot at all. They must remain under 8 degrees. At. All. Times. When on planes, when in cars. We move them in special containers with melting ice inside. And our vaccines are in the store that has no power. Fortunately we have an ice lined fridge which stays cold for about 36 hours with no power, but after that all contents go in the bin. Our staff need the contents if they are bitten by snakes and our patients, who have often been the victims of forced unprotected sex, need these medicines. So a broken generator in a power cut is a stressful time.
We get it fixed the next day and the power returns after about 5 hot hours. That just leaves the broken internet router and the broken phone line to fix. Between supplying medicine to the team, paying our suppliers, supervising our drivers and guards, extending the clinic, hiring an assistant. So I'm busy. At times I struggle as the neighbours rooster starts his work about 4am, which is about 3 hours after the neighbours tend to stop partying, fighting, horn beeping or building. So I'm busy and
tired. But a few minutes in the clinic, or chatting to someone during outreach quickly reminds me why I gave up a rather comfortable life to increase my stress levels and I'm back in the swing of fixing things again.