the hospital is slowly filling again. today, friday, I turned the corner to the Therapeutic Feeding Centre, and couldn’t find a route between all the families lying on their mats.
I cannot explain the surge. it is possible we are entering the months of the food gap; the time where crops from last year are the lowest, and the harvest is yet to come. it is also likely that as the measles tide ebbs, we are seeing the consequences of illness on a population whose health is already tenuous.
the emergency measles months were difficult for the project. not only on the sanity of our staff, but also with our relationship with the community. the speed with which it was necessary to act meant that toes were run over. I suspect that some members of the community, both abyei and the NGO one, were irate at our urgency. for me, as the ex-pat physician in the hospital when the numbers started to swell, first 5 patients. then two days later, 10. by the end of the week, 20 ... we couldn’t vaccinate fast enough. there are still cases trickling in, but without the campaign, the hospital would have been swallowed.
the rains have left for now. it was as gentle a reminder as one finds in sudan. our measles area is water-proofed, and so too our TFC. we have unloaded the mosquito nets, and are digging trenches. we are grateful for the time.
the rainy season brings life to abyei. it has little to do with humans. rain forms puddles, and then ponds. husks of mosquito larvae start to hatch, and frogs crawl from their dry tombs. birds fly from the Congo, from Kenya. snakes uncoil themselves and move from their dust bed. tress leave and plants flower bugs, and bats, and scorpions and centipedes. and malaria, and typhoid, and cholera. all of them waiting for the rains, and their season.
so much life, just sitting under the sand, under abyei’s skin. I have asked some local people which they prefer, this hot one or the wet one that follows. most favour the green of the coming fall. one person did caution, however, “for me, the rainy season... the only problem is that everything is trying to eat you.”
it is a truth that in places like this, humans are not arbiters of the food chain, but links. and not the strongest ones. one of the members of our team has lost 15 kilos. i am holding steady at 5.
it is friday, and our cook’s day off. I am looking for prey. I have offered my left arm to whichever insect would have it. I am not above playing my part. what I need in return is to have a roast duck take perch on my tukul, and then fall off in delicate, delicious pieces. or a smoked, candied salmon to trace its way across the desert with a bagel on its back, leap over the fence, work its way to my desk, and gently nudge my foot. waiting. still waiting. hey, I thought we were a chain here.