I landed in N‘djamena at 4:30 am. Three hours later, I was expected at the MSF office for a day long briefing session. Osman, an MSF driver, picked me up from the airport and drove me to the guest house. When we arrived, he smiled at me, showed me the entrance door and said: "I will see you in two hours." I smiled back, entered the quiet house and made my way to my room. I didn’t see the point of sleeping for an hour, so I got ready for my briefing, lay down on the bed and stared at the ceiling…. “I am in Chad!” I thought to myself.
Three months ago when I received my recruitment e-mail from MSF I was beyond excited but it didn't feel real, three weeks ago when I got matched to my first mission it still didn't sink in. Now, here I was, lying on a bed in N’djamena and for some reason it still felt somewhat unreal. A few minutes later my growling stomach pulled me out of bed and made me hunt for food. By the time I stepped into the living room again, bright sunlight had invaded the space, birds were chirping loudly on the terrace and a gorgeous tree with bright pink flowers had materialized in the middle of the court yard. Good morning N‘djamena!
The next day I left the capital and headed to Bokoro where I would be implementing a nutritional survey among children under 5 years old. It is estimated that more than 400,000 children will suffer from malnutrition this year. Of those, almost half will experience severe malnutrition. For the last four years MSF has ran emergency interventions focusing on the treatment of malnourished children.
Despite these interventions, every year Chad faces recurrent malnutrition crises. This time MSF aims to prevent the malnutrition cycle by improving healthcare provisions, access to safe drinking water and sanitation, as well as community ownership and engagement. It is a huge distribution process involving the collaboration and co-operation of many teams. My job is to lead and implement an epidemiological survey among 50 villages of the Bokoro district. The results from this study will inform the scale of MSF interventions and measure their impact overtime.
As we sped down the road on our way to Bokoro, the dusty air on my face felt like a blow dryer. I checked the temperature on my cellphone: 45 Celsius! Is this even real? But I am quickly distracted by the stunning landscape. It was mostly arid land and withered trees, occasionally interrupted by small villages with herds of skinny cows. I found this view so scenic, but also kind of sad. How do they grow anything in this dry land? How do they access water under this torrid sun that seemed to dry everything it touches?
“I am in Chad…” I thought again; and the closer I was getting to Bokoro the more tangible it felt. I was excited to embark on my first humanitarian journey, to meet my team, to experience Bokoro, but most importantly to be useful to the project and to the local community.
“You shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back”. These words from the late Maya Angelou, have always strongly resonated with me. These words are the reason I am here, working with MSF to alleviate the suffering of children and families living in Bokoro.