I left Liberia in time to reunite with my family in England for Christmas. After 11 months working at Benson, saying goodbye to my colleagues and friends was predictably difficult. Through email and social networking, however, it will be a lot easier to stay in touch with them than it would have been a few years ago. This is a comfort to me.
I wanted to write so much more on this blog, there are so many stories left untold. One of the most important stories which I neglected to tell is that in 2010, MSF will be handing over the medical services of Benson Hospital to the Liberian Ministry of Health. Liberia is now considered a stable country with a democratically elected government; dozens of international organisations now operate here and the government has officially committed to suspending patient fees in its health facilities. While the country still has a long way to go, Liberia has achieved a few notable improvements in health indicators. MSF is making every effort to ensure that the Liberian Ministry of Health will be in a position to fill the gap left by the closure of MSF facilities. We are currently renovating a structure in Monrovia, not far from Benson Hospital, where Benson’s medical activities will shortly be transferred and then handed over to the responsibility of the Ministry of Health. The staff of Benson Hospital will also be signed off the MSF payroll and, if they wish, reassigned to the Ministry of Health.
2010, therefore, will be a watershed year for MSF in Liberia. Not only will it mark 20 years since MSF first entered the country, it will also be the year that we close our remaining hospitals – a move which has been planned since 2007. Across town from Benson Hospital, MSF is closing our only other remaining hospital in Liberia – Island Hospital, a paediatric hospital of 186 beds. The patients will be partially absorbed by an existing Ministry of Health facility, which MSF has been supporting to expand.
I am finally writing this last entry sitting in the dining room of a hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haïti. Outside the evening is balmy and a rainstorm that was threatening seems to have passed by. As I’m sleeping in a tent in the backyard of the hotel, this is a relief. While MSF starts to wind down in Liberia, here in Haïti the needs are complex and overwhelming. MSF was here before the 12th January earthquake and will remain here for many years to come, providing a vast array of medical interventions to a population that has been devastated both physically and psychologically. This time around I am working for Merlin [www.merlin.org.uk], in a similar capacity to my position as FieldCo at Benson. Only this time the hospital is constructed from tents on some tennis courts, and the surgery is orthopaedic and plastic reconstructive.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas with me over the last year or so. I will likely be keeping a similar blog about my time in Haïti with Merlin, so please look for me there if you are interested. Meanwhile, I will keep in close contact with my MSF Family, and I encourage you to do the same. :)