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Showing posts from August, 2008

Small Team, Big Team, Small Team

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The mission here consists of three sets of staff. There are the expats; running around organising things. There are the inpats; Ethiopian medical staff and translators who have been recruited to help and moved here from other parts of the country, we have about ten here now. And then there are the local local staff from Wamura; the guards and cooks and cleaners; the numbers keep changing but I think we've employed about 60 now.

Our expat team started very small in numbers of expats, Florence the nurse, Cameron the doctor, and me for the logistics. We swelled in number over the next weeks with the arrival of Damien, an experienced nutritional nurse, another US nurse Leslie, an Australian doctor Matt, and then two further French doctors Claude and Agnes, and two French logisticians, Anne Marie and Abdel. With visiting coordination people from Sodo and Paris, the food bill certainly shot up, along with the queue for shower (don't think hot steamy room, more bucket of c…

Shocks to the System

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Every now and then something just corners you out of the blue. For me here it was a normal midweek afternoon soon after I arrived. I was alone at our base at the Wamura health centre, busy organising things, with the medical team all off in an outlying village doing their screening, admission and treatment program. The first of the 10 truck convoys had arrived, been unloaded and left the evening before, which I guess would have been talk of town and a front page advertisement for our program. I noticed more mothers and babies hanging around mid morning than usual. By midday when I walked out of the office, I was greeted with fifty or sixty children, with fifty or sixty mothers eyes on me.

Malnutrition here is surprising in that it is not immediately apparent. The fields and hills are green and beautiful, and people generally look poor, but well and happy. So much so that up to this point the whole project had a surreal feel for me. Working my way around the crowd that had ga…

Rain and Mud

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It's the wet season here in Ethiopia and the rain comes and goes each day with alarming regularity. Even if the morning dawns fine and still, by the afternoon the heavy rain can make doing anything pretty much impossible. Still, it certainly give me time to catch up on the office administration. For a couple of mornings we awoke to sound of rain and collectively all rolled over and went back to sleep.

The problem is not so much getting wet, or even getting covered in mud, it is the paralysing effect the rain has on the roads. The last sealed road is many hours travel away. Around here all roads are carved out of the hills sides and consist either of bone jarring rock, or raw clay. In dry conditions the clay surface is fine, hard and fast travel. When wet though, even with a light shower, the surface becomes slick with a film of wet clay. On an attempted trip to the next town of Lasho the four wheel drive vehicle I was in almost made the top of a small rise before the wh…

Nutritional Emergency

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When I first heard of the mission here and the phrase 'nutritional emergency', I cynically thought it another phrase like IDP (internally displaced person) which has largely replaced 'refugee'. An IDP is a refugee in in their own country, whereas a 'real' refugee finds themselves displaced into another country. Either way they are refugees to the layperson. So a nutritional emergency must be a famine I thought, not enough to eat, so supply some food, then head for home for a spa.

It turns out though that it is not quite that simple. Here in this south western mountain area of the country the fields are full of crops and things appear fertile and productive. But unfortunately the subsistence living in the area is always so close to the edge that even a small loss of harvest due to too little rain, or too much rain will result in a small shortage of food. Not really noticeable in the general population, but first detected by surveying the under five yea…