My mother has warned me not to become too attached to the children in the paediatric wards at MSF Spain's Benson Hospital or I will become, in her words, 'emotionally bankrupt'. I fear she may be right, but it will not be easy. My office for the next 9 months is situated in Benson Hospital, in the same building as the 'paeds' wards – so even before I enter my office and switch on my computer I am inevitably distracted by the likes of Fred, pictured below with his 19-year old mother. Fred is malnourished, like many of the children in our hospital, however in order to be admitted into our facility he must have presented with other symptoms – probably malaria. Of the approximately 250 Liberian staff who keeps Benson Hospital operating, I have not yet located the individual who takes care of Fred. When I see him he is not being weighed, poked or prodded, he is simply wobbling around the building on unsteady legs, holding tightly onto his mother's hand and smiling suspiciously at any white folk who cross his path.
I have just completed my 5th day in Liberia, however as always with MSF I do not feel as if I am in an unfamiliar land surrounded by strangers. Undoubtedly it will sound cheesy, but I feel I have been welcomed back into the home of my second family. Cristina, who I am replacing, left Liberia yesterday and today I made it through my first day on the job as 'Field Coordinator' for the MSF Benson Hospital project in Liberia's capital city, Monrovia. The organigram that Cristina printed for me on my first day fills 3 horizontal A4 pages, and above 6 expatriate and 250 Liberian staff was my name, Emily Bell. Even though I knew that's why I was here, seeing my name presented in such a way made my heart beat loud and fast. At the end of Day 1, seemingly everyone knew my name already and I was still struggling to remember the names of the expats who I live with, who come from as far a field as Japan, Greece and Argentina and have equally exotic names to match. 4 days later I'm doing somewhat better, however as the saying goes in Liberia, it is definitely 'no easy'.