Fieldset
Diary Day 18 - Sunday

All calm in the isolation unit. Our patient is still here and still stable. We all really have our fingers crossed for her since apparently no pregnant woman has ever survived Ebola or Marburg. Obviously we want her to be the exception to the rule.

All calm in the isolation unit. Our patient is still here and still stable. We all really have our fingers crossed for her since apparently no pregnant woman has ever survived Ebola or Marburg. Obviously we want her to be the exception to the rule.

This morning, Azaad and I decided to look into water use in the isolation unit. We have guidelines which help us to estimate the amount of water needed for a set up like this. It is supposed to be about 500 litres of water per patient per day. That takes into account all the washing of scrub suits and floors; changing disinfection solutions; and disinfection itself.

At the moment, women bring water in twenty litre jerry cans to the isolation unit. Initially some of the water was horribly murky with peaty bits in it, so we had to quickly get the quality under control. Now Philippe and Franqui – our water managers – check the turbidity of the water in each jerry can before they pour it into the water containers around the isolation unit.

In the afternoon, when it was a bit cooler, we went to visit a local spring to see if it could be rehabilitated. We cut through the village and then followed the path down into a valley. The trees got denser and the temperature dropped as though we had walked into the chilled section of a supermarket. Absolutely amazing. Very jungly with long hanging tendrils and trees with huge leaves. Wonderfully green and full of noise of chirping and rasping. We had to go down and down, and we found a path which over the years has been worn deep into the earth so that I walked along some bits with the jungle floor level with my head.

The area around the spring had been recently rather over-cleared which is a shame since soil can now wash down into the small stream. Two of my colleagues, Elisabetta and Henry, have made a small dam and used bamboos to pipe water to a collection point. The idea is to set up a point with three outlets so that the people can collect water as it pours straight into their jerry cans rather than fishing it out of the pond. A little lower down we will set up a couple of half drums as basins so that people can do their washing and soak cassava.

As we walked back up through the village we came across some village chiefs. One of them had his “spiritual bodyguard” with him. He had a long metal cowbell which he shook vigorously as he came running towards us. His face was blackened with paint and on his head two feathers stuck forward from his hat. On closer inspection his hat turned out to be some kind of hawk (dead) lying on his head with its wings hanging down towards the man’s shoulders. Ugh.