Fieldset
Road rages

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written anything. A lot has happened and had a huge impact on my work and life here. A couple of weeks ago, my translator, my right hand man, my most reliable staff member, my best friend here, did the stupidest thing.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written anything. A lot has happened and had a huge impact on my work and life here. A couple of weeks ago, my translator, my right hand man, my most reliable staff member, my best friend here, did the stupidest thing.

We were on our way to Pul-deng and one of the health workers was on a motor bike checking with army guys on an explosion that happened the night before. My translator asked if he could ride the bike. I of course said no way but to cut a long story short he did it anyway.

So I was fuming and thinking I was going to kill the idiot, but alas coming round a bend there he was in a ditch, broken, bleeding and in shock! He had apparently swerved to miss a leopard and crashed, being flung into the swollen drain on the side of the road. He was so lucky he got out as he could have drowned if he was knocked out. Anyway we now had an emergency patient to be transferred to the hospital, the other car soon arrived and we packed him up and sent him to Gambella.

When I went to meet with the local authorities about the incident I was informed that it was actually their bike and that as it’s MSF who crashed it they needed compensation immediately! It was their only means of transport for the whole region and they use it to deliver medications, therapeutic food and all other types of medical activities. The bike is now totally destroyed, with hole in the motor, forks twisted, wheels bent etc… The meeting was rather hostile, so apart from the shock of the accident, working all day without a health officer or a translator and blatantly ignoring my instruction, now I had to go back and tell the project coordinator that we have a problem!

Apart from this, it’s been weeks since the 75hp boat motor died and I started harping on a replacement to no avail. We haven’t gone to Jikow for the last 3 weeks, which means that all the HIV/TB patients will need reassessment, the leprosy patients will relapse, the nutrition kids won’t received their food supply after walking for hours through swamps. Well as previous experience tells me, they won’t come back. Not to mention that the most critical patients we get are from Jikow as it’s right on the border of South Sudan.

Apart from this, the last driver that was sent from Addis had a problem with his contract and was sent back two weeks ago, leaving us with only one car.  As we don’t have a backup, we can’t go to any clinics that may see us bogged as we can’t get help. It also means that if there is an emergency where we have to evacuate, there won’t be a car if we are out on a clinic. And as I said we don’t have a working boat that we can go further than town with.

Apart from this, the road to Gambella is rapidly being eaten away by the rising flood waters. Last Friday it was blocked in two places by trucks that had fallen in holes. This resulted in us walking and carrying all the gear and patients through the floods, including a fully dilated pregnant woman with hand/face presentation. On Monday when we came back, the car was actually driving in water up to the bumper. When we stopped behind a stuck truck, the air filter was full of water although it sits about four to five feet high! The staff in the back was calling our driver the “boat driver”. This is in a land cruiser, so you can imagine.

So we are officially cut off now. No more supplies, no more visits in or out, but worst of all, no more emergency transfers. That means all our emergency obstetric and surgical patients will have no option other than to die slowly before our eyes.