© Ludvig Bollinder / MSF
I am writing this at an outdoor restaurant in Mbandaka overlooking the Congo River. It's not directly the Mälarpaviljongen (a popular riverside restaurant back home) – I laugh a bit to myself just at the crazy comparison - but it's pretty cosy here.
Mbandaka city. Photo: Ludvig Bolinder / MSF.
I ordered fish with rice one-and-a-half hours ago. Below we watch the people's routines by the river: some wash clothes, others wash their bodies, two others help to transport an old rusty excavator which they seem to have salvaged from the river and will probably turn into an improvised wood stove. As you can see, Mbandaka is a bit of a backwater. It is the largest city in this part of the country, with somewhere between 300,000 - 500,000 inhabitants, but you can say that the 'city' feeling is not really present.
Here in Mbandaka, preparations are in full swing. Logisticians have worked for days to set up two major transit camps and the boats that will bring us upstream along the river. Me and my colleagues have devoted today to planning which medicines will be included in the first delivery, which will cover the gap until the next delivery, estimated to be about two weeks. The medication we don't send in the first batch will stay in the transit warehouse until needed. In addition to medicines and medical and hygiene equipment, we clearly also have responsibility for the food orders for the patients. So now we've just placed an order with the supply team for five 50kg bags of rice, two bags of beans, a bag of salt, etc.
Now my food arrives. They brought fish with french fries, not rice, but who cares?