A doctor in DRC: Arrival in Bolomba

Ludvig has recently completed an assignment as part of MSF's emergency team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He's shared his diary with us. After a two-day journey by boat, he and the team have reached a region experiencing a dangerous measles outbreak...

Three days in Bolomba and I am slowly starting to get used to being here. And something that I learned here, is that man seems capable of getting used to almost everything.

We arrived late on Saturday night. Melissa woke me up and said, "We're here". I looked around me. It was dark, but I could distinguish the shore in the light of the halogen lamp on the the boat's bow. The only thing that distinguished this beach from the kilometre of beach that we passed during our two-day journey was a tiny trail glimpsed among the reeds. No houses. No people. No light.
If you look up Bolomba on a map, you'll see that it lies along a highway which runs to the north and south. The map will show that this is the only road in the whole region. And the fact is that the road in itself is the small trail, which I saw from the boat. Bolomba is that inaccessible.
Phone coverage is available a few hours a day. The Internet is basically non-existent, but sometimes you can get some coverage on the phone.
I sleep in a small tent. On a rather uncomfortable foam rubber mattress. Without a pillow. I poo in a latrine with about 50 cockroaches as spectators. You get used to it, as I said.
As soon as I show up, all the residents stop whatever they're doing. "Mundele" they shout and point at me. "White man."
The first few days have been dedicated to logistics. We have unloaded 25 tons of luggage along a small path, secured a water supply, built stalls for a bucket shower, established warehouses for equipment and medicines, set up radio communications, built a healthcare centre using tents, renovated a building in the existing hospital area to make it into a working healthcare facility, etc, etc. And this morning, after three days of struggle, we started treating people, at two health centres, two mobile clinics and a hospital. It is quite impressive.
The morning was, as expected, chaotic.
We basically have three different entry criteria. Most cases are treated as outpatients and only complicated cases require hospital care. The three categories consist of:
1. All cases of measles
2. Children up to 10 years of age with fever
3. Severe malnutrition in children up to the age of five
It was a long first day at work. But I walked out of there with a nice feeling in my body. I have longed to get started and when I got back my colleagues said I had a big smile on my face.
Good night!