Fieldset
A funny thing happened on the way home from Kashobwe…

There we were, cruising along in our speedboat, MSF flag flying high, when we were once again flagged-down by a boat full of Zambian fisherman… Only this time there was no pregnant woman in labour (thank goodness!); they were rowing towards us at an alarming pace and yelling something in kibemba…

There we were, cruising along in our speedboat, MSF flag flying high, when we were once again flagged-down by a boat full of Zambian fisherman… Only this time there was no pregnant woman in labour (thank goodness!); they were rowing towards us at an alarming pace and yelling something in kibemba… which in fact turned out to be “Give us condoms…” Apparently condom is synonymous with the MSF flag… The Nchelenge project should be very proud of all their hard work!! (Nchelenge is the MSF HIV project just across the lake in Zambia) Apparently it is the common reaction at the sight of the MSF flag… Condoms!!

condom distribution
Jean-Bosco explaining the ABCs of HIV prevention

We were on our way home from Kashobwe where we have been supporting a hospital during the measles epidemic… Did I mention that there is a measles epidemic in Katanga? The national vaccination campaign has been postponed repeatedly since January, and is now scheduled for the end of August… The plan is to vaccinate the entire province in 5 days… I don’t want to be a pessimist but I have to say I am not convinced, seeing as Katanga is… well you’ve seen the roads… Logistically speaking, the DRC is one of the most difficult places to run a mission, and a mass vaccination campaign is just that, an enormous logistical operation… you need people…you need transportation…and most importantly you need a cold chain for the vaccines, and of course the vaccines themselves, which of course have been on the way since January... and well based on the hundreds of cases we have already seen, we are quite late in the game…

You may be thinking “Why doesn’t MSF just vaccinate everyone?” I thought that too, but unfortunately it is a lot more complex than that and the resources needed are enormous, and well we are not enormous enough to vaccinate the entire province and certainly not in 5 days… Also we are not the only game in town and the responsibility has been given to somebody else, somebody enormous and with infinite resources and so instead we have to wait… instead we have the responsibility to try to control the damage done by a vaccination campaign come-too-late for some, but hopefully just in time for a lot of other people, sometime at the end of August…

Hopefully…

The other funny thing that happened is that our driver was accused of running over a chicken… well I guess not so funny, kind of serious, but not as serious as running over a duck, they put you in jail for that, because apparently a duck can’t defend himself…