Handing over

"We organized a raffle and dinner for our staff and everybody enjoyed the anxiousness of winning the premium items - mattresses and wheelbarrows - and laughing at those who won that not-so-hot ones."

Since the closure of our clinic in Danamadja camp at the end of September, our activities have been limited to water, hygiene, and sanitation and the mobile clinics at the Central African Republic (CAR) border.

The reduction in work load has been evident for everybody; quickly enough our staff started wondering about our continued involvement in Goré. While true that we discussed back and forth with our coordination and headquarters about cutting short our departure (initially planned for December), the first couple weeks of September we had to keep a straight face and ‘neither deny nor confirm’ the inquiries. My Project Coordinator (PC) and I resorted to reminding our personnel about MSF’s charter and commitment to communities in distress and emphasizing that MSF does not carry out development work, we are merely here to alleviate the population in distress and fill a gap and we will leave eventually – better to plan for it

Mid-September we announced MSF’s decision to end our activities in Goré by the beginning of October. While Danamdja camp is well organized and village life takes off on its own, Kobiteye camp is yet to be relocated, water and latrine ratios need to be improved, shelter to be built, and much more. However, we rest at ease that with the arrival of other international organizations and the strengthened involvement of existing ones the health of returnees and refugees is not at risk.

Local authorities, the local refugee community, and our staff were clearly sad to hear the news but understood that the relative calm and progress in Goré justifies our retreat and especially as MSF as a whole seeks to redirect resources to West Africa Ebola containment and Middle East refugees.

Notorious "polytanks"- 12m3 reservoirs to replace 10m3 bladders

We smoothed the effect of our departure by accomplishing important milestones in the last two weeks of September. At the CAR border villages, we conducted the first of three SMC campaigns at the camps - Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention, an innovative World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended treatment to protect children under five against malaria and reduce incidence by 75%.

We improved and increased our water pumping capacity with the installation of 12m3 reservoirs and another set of 23 latrines. Additionally, as part of our exit strategy we transferred medical and logistics insight, antibiotic donations for the second SMC campaign, and chlorination dosage and know-how to ensure our partner organizations succeed in maintaining the quality of supply.

Plentiful adhesive puddy used for polytanks and shipped back to Ndjamena

Plentiful adhesive putty used for polytanks and shipped back to Ndjamena

Once we'd finalized the details of the end and handover of activities in Goré we had much packing to do. We had three buildings to empty and plenty of everything to send back to Ndjamena – four generators, four refrigerators, and copious amounts of gebajoint [a sealant compound for pipes] among others. 

For household items we organized a raffle and dinner for our staff and everybody enjoyed the anxiousness of winning the premium items - mattresses and wheelbarrows - and laughing at those who won that not-so-hot ones  - plenty of pails+broom+mop sets, and the infamous cauldrons (pictured one at Ndjamena’s central warehouse).  

The least desired item in the raffle- the cooking cauldron

The least desired item in the raffle - the cooking cauldron 

In the end it was a fun farewell evening and luck had its course as our driver won one of each of the mattresses and wheelbarrows to bring along with us on the 600 km drive back to Ndjamena (truck loaded pictured).

Our driver filled our truck with his raffle prizes - mattress and wheelbarrow

After a long two day trip with a broken down truck, plenty of speed bumps, potholes, and the resulting broken lower backs, we arrived in Ndjamena last Friday.

Oh the joy to taste Ndjamena’s celebrated chef’s creations after a six day bread and Nutella diet since our cook fell ill the days before our departure (go figure) and refrigerators shipped away well in advance. The exhausting last days resulted in high tension and heated exchanges that happily ended with sweet reward of air conditioned rooms.

The team is recovering and very soon will separate as our PC leaves today and all other this upcoming week. I still have a handful of financial reporting to run in the next few days before flying out Thursday night to NYC for my debriefing before heading back to LA.  After all the visitors that stopped last few months I’m looking forward to seeing familiar faces back in the office on Monday, including the renowned Dr. Bruce Lee.