It was a great week. We moved out of our sub-base and undertook disease screening activities in a local village. Finally, we went mobile. The target village was Daga and all told, things went smooth.
There are advantages to mobile activities. It allows us to better learn about the medical and humanitarian needs of the population, and sensitize the population to the goals and services offered by MSF. It also allows us to bring medical care to those who cannot travel to our sub-base. It gets us out and into the population's actual living conditions.
On a personal note, I enjoy getting out of the project base once in a while. Life in the HAT camp 24 hours/day 7 days a week can get long at times. The change of scenery is welcome. My general existence is from my bedroom to the next room which is the office and then to the in-patient ward which is about
a 5 second walk from the office. Work-life balance is not an easy option. Take last night for example. Pierre woke me at 2 AM because he ran out of therapeutic milk for the malnourished children. Then at 6:30 AM Cyriaque needed perfusion sets and syringes for the morning infusions. There is never any real time away from the work environment.
In Daga village our project coordinator (from southern Ontario) first greeted the village chief. He was concerned he was infected and so we first offered him testing for sleeping sickness. We later screened all the village children between 1-5 years for malnutrition by measuring their "MUAC" or middle upper arm circumference (basically how skinny their arm is). Thankfully we only found 1 child with moderate malnutrition and no children with severe malnutrition. Some children and families really got into the
MUAC screening! Although we only really needed children to roll up their sleeve, some exuberantly got completely undressed. A little clarification soon fixed that situation.
The main activity of the day was doing screening for sleeping sickness. We screened 60 villagers on a first-come first-serve basis. Everyone cued up in a line in the center of the village. There was a palpable positive feeling amongst everyone. We were there to improve village health, and I got the sense people really appreciated it. Tara, my project coordinator, turned to me at one point and said "this is what MSF is all about". I agreed.
A concerning 30% of those screened were positive for sleeping sickness. I met privately with all 18 of these patients (some were children and their parents who were farming in the fields needed to be found). I then explained to them what the test results meant and immediately invited them to the HAT camp. There we will determine if they have the severe form of sleeping sickness or not, and offer immediate hospital admission and treatment.
I'll keep you updated on how the village of Daga fares.
Warm wishes from the Central African Republic,