The team were very busy prior to my arrival and with no NERU emergencies (another MSF team were dealing with lead poisoning) in our 4 North-West states being self-sufficient, they decided to take the full weekend off for the first time in months.
Having only been here for a few days, I didn’t feel like spending a Saturday doing nothing and decided to take the opportunity to visit one of the nearby projects. The Zamfara lead poisoning project was 3 hours away, and Goronyo was only 1 hour, so I decided to visit the closer one.
After getting approval from the Logistic Coordinator for the trip, I wasn’t able to reach my counterpart logistician or the project coordinator by phone. I send them an email telling them to call me if my visit would be inconvenient.
I packed one of the large chocolate bars that I had brought with me from Scotland, some water, my camera, some tools and clothes. I wasn’t planning on staying overnight but during the week, recent visitors were forced to spend an extra night there after some confusion about the local security situation.
The journey took an hour through beautiful scenery, mostly flat orange-red desert with small dry bushes. We passed dried out river beds about 2 to 5 metres wide. After an hour and various police check points we arrived in Goronyo. The team were working, but not too many outpatients come on a Saturday so they had time to show me around the hospital site that we share with the Ministry of Health. I saw limp and skinny children with their mothers in consultation with our medical staff and some very sick looking patients lying in the hot hospital rooms. Not yet knowing what is culturally acceptable, I kept my distance.
My logistical colleague, a water and sanitation specialist showed me around the hospital and told me about his plans to improve the waste disposal area, the sewerage system and the water distribution. He also showed me around town. On Sundays there is a large market and people travel from Abuja and Lagos to buy onions, maize and millet. Grumpy camels carried sacks for the traders setting up their stalls for tomorrow’s sale.
We departed a few hours later and during the journey home I saw the rain of the rainy season. It fell heavy and the passing motorbike drivers were soaked through, but the ground never held the water and it soaked into the dust. A few minutes later the rain stopped and everything looked just as it did before the rain.
On Sunday I went to Sokoto’s “International Airport” (there is indeed an annual flight to Mecca, but on the other 364 days it only receives planes from Abuja and Lagos). The team doctor and coordinator arrived and I got the chance to meet my new boss for the first time.
I now have 3 weeks to absorb as much information as I can from the boss before he leaves after a 16 month stint in Nigeria.