the sky looks like it will fall. after a dozen cloudless mornings, blueblue afternoons, and sweltering starred nights, heavy black clouds
hang above us, looming, ready to crash down. the wind has whipped up sand, and as we rush to close our tukul doors, we can feel the tiny
stings from the whipping grains. never a middle ground.
with the change in weather, so too our moods. we are grateful for any texture in our days, even more for the respite from the heat, a chance
to lie in our beds and listen to the soft patter of rain on our grass roofs. the rainy season has been slow to come this year. we wake up each
morning and with all of abyei, scan the horizon for clouds.
the atmosphere is different on the ground too, in town. tense. waiting for the change, for the sky to fall. there was a fight this afternoon, and someone was stabbed. i was in the hospital when it happened. I left the operating theatre, and found a crowd of people outside of the emergency room, huddling around its closed steel door. every so often it would open, a nurse or doctor would enter or leave, and close the door behind them. what's going on, I asked my translator who was leaning against the wall. hitting... with knife, he said. I pushed through the crowd and rapped on the metal door. it opened a crack and an eye peered out at me.
as I walked in, people from behind tried to push past me, to enter theroom. I held them back, moved them gently back into the throng, and closed the door. the room was full already. it was difficult to move. three nurses, soldiers, relatives, another medical doctor. "ok, everyone out. except staff and one relative. please. everyone. you. you. you. out." reluctantly they left, one by one. as they did, others tried to push back in, removing their hands from the closing door only at the last minute.
a young man was lying on his back, eyes wide in terror, his shirt red with blood and so was the bed. two IV's, I said, 19 gauge, and open them. call the lab technician for a blood group, and ask outside for a donor. blood pressure?
this was the medicine I do at home. like waking. I examined the patient, and his wounds. there were two, one was definitely superficial, but the other I couldn't tell if it went into his chest, or possibly his abdomen. his stomach was soft, his breathing clear. that's good. I put on sterile gloves and poked my little finger into the hole. it didn't pass through to his lung. I could feel a spicule of bone, as fine as a tooth on a comb, that the knife had sheared off, but I couldn't feel the thin tract of the blade underneath it. perhaps the knife had bounced off of it, continued on a harmless path.
we decided to go to the OT and explore the wound. I opened the metal door, and the crowd outside had grown. at least 30 people, more arriving
through the gate. 2 women had thrown themselves on the ground in grief, wailing, rolling. someone tried to push past me. no. he stood fast. so
did i. there were too many people for us to navigate a stretcher through. the little courtyard was nearly full, tilting towards chaos.
please move, I said, stand at the gate. I will come and talk to you soon.
some of our staff arrived from the compound and helped push the crowd back. we closed the gate, and people leapt over it. we started from the
ER with our stretcher, people trying to follow from all sides. i ran interference where i could. we blocked the entrance to the OT, and went
we prepped his chest, and cleaned the wound. I tried to pass forceps through to his abdomen or chest, but it appeared the track went
underneath his skin instead of inside. so lucky. both of us.
I left the other doctor to close the wound and went back outside. most people were now at the gate, their backs turned to the hospital,
watching a fistfight across the football field, half a mile away. I spoke with them.
I walked home an hour later on my worn path, with my translator. today is a difficult day, he said, I don't think I will make any movements tonight. I agreed. a good night to be quiet at home.
but, he said, you know, abyei is better than before. two years ago, no one left their homes. the market would close early. everyone was too
afraid. you could wake up one morning and step outside and see a dead body. it wasn't safe for anyone. well, it seems much better now, I said.
oh yes, much better, he said. safe. now there is peace.
peace. after so much war. i hear that word all of the time, use it all of the time, but never did it sound so correct, it's meaning so obvious. the difference between then and now was complete. like the change in the sky.
it is one of the reasons MSF is here, of course. not simply to show solidarity with a population torn by war, but to encourage peace. we do
it by being neutral, siding only with the sick. we make a place, the hospital, where everyone can find respite, regardless of which tribe
they claim, or which border they cross to get here. but we also did it when we first put up our flag, already brown and frayed. we needed, from
the beginning, to guarantee the safety of ourselves and our staff. the local authorities work, in part, to keep the roads safe because if they
are not, we will not be able to move. the hospital must be safe or we will not be able to work.
the rain is starting. i am to bed. a good night to be quiet, and i hope the people of abyei agree.