For anyone reading, my Blog entries may appear to have been thinning-out a bit recently. Computer access here has become severely restricted, and my own computer has now, quite literally, ‘bitten the dust’ of South Sudan. Nevertheless, there is an occasional opportunity to get to a ‘shared machine’, and so I write on tenterhooks. It is Sunday afternoon, and I can hear the sound of the village kids playing volleyball outside the compound fence.
Things are easier here after a tense few weeks, and you can feel it in the air. The other day I was even called to examine what was thought to be a landmine in the T.B. village. I had my doubts, as it was in the doorway to a tukul, which would have been built over the top of it, which would have been impossible. Nevertheless, it did look a bit weird, this dull wire sticking out of the ground, and if anybody knows what a landmine would look like, it would be these folk. In fact, it turned-out to be just the end of a bit of brass, but it had even our people, who have grown up in the war-zone, jumpy. People come and go with various uniforms on in Lankien, and we keep a sharp eye on atmosphere, word on the street, and gunshots and other cases we treat, but we are still here, albeit understaffed.
I know I keep referring to the new Sudan and the new age of independence, but it is a subject found in everything we do here. There is such a need for people to understand the basic rudiments of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ way of working, a concept of blueprint or template. With a culture so steeped in displacement, improvisation and survival for the majority of living memory, the idea of ‘principle’ or ‘concept’ is, in itself sometimes impossible to express. From observations, it seems so important to support ideas of accountability and consequence. I am not a hands-down believer in Centralised Government in Africa, but even regional independence is dictated by a common sense of the principles of community and enterprise.
Although we are an emergency organisation, the way we practice can be an example for development of an independence of spirit that has to do with humanity, not anarchy. There is tremendous potential here, and the fact that MSF have been working here so effectively and saved so many each week from Kala-Azar, Malaria, Tuberculosis and all the other diseases, puts us in a unique and influential position.
Guard Photo opportunity: Isaac's departure shift. Mut and Gatuak - his accomplices. Isaac: the only fat man in the village.
We will try to honour it, as it is clear that the little village is important. And the way we run our hospital will be a direct example for people looking to build the infrastructure of this 'brand-new' country. Already, the guards, who I am in charge of, are part of our public image. We have to restrict the amount of water taken by the able-bodied villagers (who are well-enough to work the village pump MSF has give them), in order to keep the piped tap water system for the patients. Guards have to be firm but fair, and in dealing with any soldiers coming-in, make sure they are disarmed and, ideally, stripped of uniform This is quite a tricky job, when all you have to protect you is MSF's reputation of impartiality and honour. I am very proud of how our guys have risen to the challenge in these times of insecurity, and I firmly believe that the military actors around can, and will, take their example.