Feldgruppe
Day 20 - rollercoaster

Bit of a rollercoaster of a day.

All the refugees have been transferred to Batil camp from T3. When we pass the site, we wonder whether we must have imagined there were 10,000 refugees there. It’s so empty. Yet great to know they have completed their journey.

Bit of a rollercoaster of a day.

All the refugees have been transferred to Batil camp from T3. When we pass the site, we wonder whether we must have imagined there were 10,000 refugees there. It’s so empty. Yet great to know they have completed their journey.

But then we hear a message on the radio. Rink, one of our star WatSan guys has gone up to K18 to check that the water supply can be reactivated. He’s discovered about 100 families that must have arrived in recent days from the border. He asks for medical support and Erna, our top medic that has been here since the start of this refugee crisis, from the initial discovery of weak, exhausted refugees that were beyond medical care to the erection of a clinic at K18 to the transfer of all refugees to T3 and finally Batil, grabs her kit and jumps in a car, cancelling the first day off she’s had in a month.

Meanwhile, after ensuring everyone has water at K18, Rink heads further up to K43 and discovers more refugees. Maybe the influx of new refugees from Blue Nile State, expected any day now, has started.

Meanwhile we are taking all 46 outreach workers for an Ethiopian lunch. Today is my last day in Jamam and Sandra, the field epi, and I are pooling the last of our per diems to treat the teams and say a huge thank you for their efforts. This is not straight forward as the biggest restaurant is a straw shack with a capacity of 20 and not enough plates! So we divide ourselves between 3 restaurants. Not quite the communal get together we hoped for but everyone is having a good time, wolfing down the delicious injera and tibs in minutes and falling about laughing when they poke fun at me and my comical Arabic.

Team Epidemiology - outreach workers © Ruby Siddiqui/MSF

But then the heavens opened and the restaurant roofs were soon leaking. And we hear on the radio that the cars are stuck at K18 and K43 and the car sent to rescue them is also stuck. This is a job for Max our burly logistician. Max heads over there with not one but two tractors to rescue our teams who are unprepared for a night in the rain.

Later we discover that two of the outreach workers have been pretending they have been working. They have turned up to the relevant meetings and then disappeared. We have no choice but to sack them. Not a pleasant task, particularly after having such a fond farewell in the restaurant.

Then we hear that another MSF car has reversed into a tree. Somehow a drunk soldier managed to get into the empty car and rear-ended it. We’re all scratching our heads.

Then I’m told all flights have been cancelled for the next 4 days because of South Sudan’s first anniversary of Independence. They’re going to make a weekend of it but that means I can’t leave Jamam for another week. I’d had mixed feelings about leaving but, like most MSFers at the end of their missions, had mentally started the withdrawal. Now I was unsure how I felt. But the outreach teams were happy and I was secretly chuffed to be staying a few days longer.

And then we see Erna, Rink and Estoban, our project coordinator, roll into the compound, minutes before sundown. It’s a relief to see their muddy faces and Max’s huge smile.

What a bizarre day.