Cluster Meeting

"Our house has been nicknamed the “Maison Roustique ” by visitors and becomes more evident day by day."

At the beginning of this week I accompanied my project coordinator (PC) to his weekly coordination meeting with all the humanitarian actors in the area.  We were a group of about 30 with Danamadja & Kobiteye’s camp director, NGOs, international organizations, authorities, and returnees’ representatives (from both Danamadja and Kobiteye). The agenda covered the whole span of activities that the refugee camps handle: safety, shelter, food security, water and sanitation, health, children and social services – which resulted in a 3 hour-long affair. This all-actor meeting comes after separate “cluster” meetings for each of the activities on the camp and agreements/conclusions are brought to the table; this week we discussed updated shelter, latrine, and potable water ratios, arguments for in-kind vs. cash as food donation to better respect the traditions and diet of displaced populations, epidemiological data for the week, child relocation and education programs, and the latest census efforts to refine statistics across all activities.
Though there is a moderator during the meeting, the mix of styles, expertise, and backgrounds results in a whirlwind – productive at times and seemly stagnant at others. The duration and sensitive topics of the discussion provide an opportunity to acquaint with each participant’s character, delivery, and especially their organization’s methods and philosophy. Though opinions, methodologies, and reaction times vary, ultimately, we all envision improving the living situation of the returnees/refugees. Once adjourned, a third of the group lingers to chat and follow up over a cigarette break – surprising the see the amount of humanitarian workers addicted actually. We head back to the office to catch up with plenty of emails – wishing we’d be in pre-internet times – and soon after head home for lunch. A draining start of the day - I now understand my project coordinator’s fatigue on Tuesdays.
Girls in Danamadja © JJ Téllez

Girls in Danamadja

On after-work matters, I finally managed to convince a few to join me on the 5am exercise routine. The ragtag group included our French chain-smoking nurse and Burkinabe flip flop wearing logistician huffing and puffing as we jogged to the nearby soccer field for few loops and plyometrics. I believe the argument that convinced them was the feeling of being worthy of our usual bread, peanut butter, and jelly breakfast after burning off some calories.  Next week we’ll have some of our staff joining us as well.
Our house has been nicknamed the “Maison Roustique” by visitors and becomes more evident day by day. Aside from the odd animal sounds from within the ceiling in the middle of the night (bats most likely), the flying termites creeping under window and door cracks after each rain, the flying beetles in the dining room, the nightly insect bites even under the “protection” of the mosquito nets over our beds, and the mix of water and power cuts every so often, during breakfast this morning I warned our nurse to cut out a part of bread that had been clearly nibbled by the house rat overnight (we’ve become accustomed to finding droppings around the house but saw it for the first time during our Game of Thrones séances). Displaying her rustic side herself (after all she is the lead for the mobile clinics and rides over 300 km per week to the thick-forested CAR border), she tells me she’s noticed plenty times before and doesn’t care as she eats the whole thing with a bountiful scoop of peanut butter and nutella; noticing my surprise she asks me, “you got your rabies vaccination anyway right?” At the end of the day, the rustic house will make us all stronger - not too shabby side effect of the mission.