If there is one word to describe this trip so far it is frustrating.
Things that frustrate me (disclaimer: this is potentially a moany venting post):
- The slow pace of negotiating something that should be straight forward.
- The failure of leaders to overcome their differences
- The inability to see how dragging of feet means more suffering for the people
- The total waste of resources that should be used to help not hinder
- The truths, half-truths and outright lies that people tell (and trying to figure out which is which)
- ‘Somali time’ aka if we say we leave at 4am we might leave anytime between 4 and 10. But be ready, just in case
- The constant reminder of the worlds inequities
- The fact that my ‘shower’ (rusty pipe dripping cold water hanging precariously from the wall) doesn’t work
- Having to wear a headscarf all the time but not knowing how to prevent it blowing into my face and having to totally rearrange it following a gust of wind
There are two IDP camps near the hospital. We went to the one a little further away, found a tree (a difficult job in itself) and set up our mobile clinic.
Women and children first was the request, but men would still try to sneak to the fromt of the line. Most complaints were simple to sort out, and worsened by chronic dehydration. It feels awful to tell people they should try to drink more water when the country faces drought. Most children have small round scars or fresh burns made by traditional healers. Diarrhoea, constipation, headache and fever are common. Plus the chronic diseases plaguing all societies. The double burden of disease is truly manifested here.
We work through each patient via the translators, treating as necessary, giving public health advice and any medicine we can. Follow up is arranged for those who need it. A few very sick patients are taken in the truck back to the hospital.
And by 11am the sun is so strong we have to leave, apologising to those still waiting and promising to try return in few days..
At 7am, after steaming hot somali tea and a bowl of oats, one team headed to the hospital and one to the closest IDP (internally displaced persons) camp. I was part of the hospital team. Our job: to set up the hospital. Piece of cake…
We started by organising the space. Choice was limited, but we found two desks and put them in the rooms with least sun, in the hope of not melting whilst seeing patients. Creating a physiological systems-based system the cupboards were stacked with medicine. One shelf cardiac, one shelf Gastro. Three shelves antibiotics and rehydration solution. Etc.
We called the engineer to fix the lack of running water in the toilets. The lab, full of never used analysers and a capable technician has no reagents, these go on the list to be ordered. In the female ward we find babies with measles. The males is a mix. Later on we open a third ward for mother and child to prevent measles cross-infection.
A few hours after we started, we were ready to see patients. Just as soon as the interpretors arrived…
This is the view from my hotel room in Hargeisa. A hotel room I hadnt really expected to be in, since the plan for this trip was to go to ‘the area of most need’ which is unlikely to be the capital city. But there have been issues getting started, in order to travel we need permission from the government, and permission is slow to gain. Whilst we wait we sort our supplies, procure medicines and analyse maps and security reports, read research papers on Somaliland, drank copious amounts of tea and had many formal and informal meetings.
This evening we met the Minister for Education, State Minister and some other important looking people. We explained our case, our plan, what we needed (essentialy just permission) and still we need more meetings.
Luckily though, Ole, the german social worker working closely with us, is a man with a plan. He identified a second possible location and is waiting permission from the sultan of that area and security confirmation that we can go. The plan is to set up a hospital as a referral centre, and then to undertake mobile clinics in the most affected areas, IDP camps etc. But for now, we wait…
This is why in every succeeding remembering moment, the story will likely be revised as the present becomes the past anticipating a certain future that bestows a meaning on the whole.
Sometimes you get given a paper to read for research methods class that is so stale and devoid of colour that no will in the world could allow you to reach the reference section. And then you get Brigitta, the women I wish was my adopted grandmother. A retired childrens nurse who continues academic work “for fun” a bespectacled, grey haired and humorous lady who, due to her extensive experience both in the field and home, seems to knows anyone who is anyone in global health. And Brigitta gives you a paper that makes you cry, one that makes you think and one that makes you question everything.