Royal Wedding: Life on an MSF compound in Nigeria

Pippa is an obstetrics and gynaecology consultant from the UK. She is currently on assignment with Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Jahun, part of northern Nigeria’s Jigawa state – working on a maternity project in an area where a high number of women and children die during childbirth. Here, she shares an insight into life with MSF.

So, it seems that the Royal Wedding has an impact, even here in Jahun.

I was busy when it happened, back in May, but oddly got sucked into the highlights later on in the day. I was impressed by the gospel singers and moderately (don’t tell anyone) blown away by the young cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. 

But then I stood up before the highlights were over and went about my very important tasks for the day. My most important task being packing for the project in Jahun, as I left the following day.

Oddly, now I’m here, the Royal Wedding seems to have touched the other staff in MSF:

I have been asked about it by the head of HR in Abuja; the fistula nurses in Jahun; the midwives in the pre-delivery area; the team in the operating theatre are very keen on Megan; and even the drivers that take us to hospital every day have an opinion.

It seems to have had an impact!   

A buzzing international community

The compound life for international MSF staff here is a buzzing community; they always are. A sort of mini world. A place where humans interact from amazingly different cultures. It’s one of the things I love about MSF, living in an international compound. 

Where Palestine sits down and eats, jokes and plays cards with Israel. Where Kenya sometimes supports Somalia and his fasting for Ramadan (not to be undersold as a commitment in 41-degree Celsius heat with no water during the day).

Japan loves the pineapple, it’s very expensive in Japan she giggles. Congo shuffles around, in and out of hospital doing the ward rounds and is occasionally spotted heading to the fridge to pick up a beer. The warm, deep, velvety tones of Nigeria are everywhere.  

France is also ever-present (as we are with the French part of MSF), and Australia and France have just returned from leave in Spain – so a sort of Spanish soiree is had with jamon, manchego and sangria. 

Sweden has been making amazing progress with the neonatal unit by working with, and to the credit of, Israel’s logistics. They have drastically improved the environment of the neonatal intensive care unit, which has completely turned around the medical management for our newborn babies.

And the UK, well the UK is subtly trying to prove that some of us speak a different language, feel European, are outward facing culturally and still engaged in the world despite the chaos back home of the last few years. 

Image shows MSF team members at work in Jahun General Hospital, December 2017. Photo: Maro Verli/MSF