For some time now I have been planning to tell more stories from my time with Médecins Sans Frontières. Over the last few months I have been thinking about / early stage planning a new book that will do just this in what will hopefully be an interesting and novel way.
I thought it may be nice to ‘drip feed’ a few little stories onto my social media as a taste of what is to come.
Very important to note is that all of the people (or their parents) whose stories are told have given permission for me to do so. Some times I will recall the story but may not have the names. This is the case with the little girl you see here.
She was brought to our clinic in Aloi (Northern Uganda). The clinic was located in a camp of 50,000 displaced people who had lost their homes due to conflict between the Ug government (et al) and the Lords Resistance Army (LRA). The camps sprung up in a very short time and had little provision for sanitation, water supplies and medical cover. Doctors Without Borders had a significant involvement in helping to rectify this situation. Our teams worked with the community on the construction and maintenance of Ventilated Improved Pit latrines or drop toilets as they are sometimes known. The Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) teams worked on bore holes for fresh water and the medical teams ran the clinics and outreach services.
The little girl came to our clinic having fallen hand first into a fire. This was not uncommon as children played between the mud brick tukuls where meals were being prepared. Her mum, doing what she had always done, took her to the traditional healer. The healer put rabbit fur onto the wound. Only later did neighbours advise her mum to bring her to our clinic. It took a long time and a lot of pre procedure pain relief to irrigate and pick off the rabbit fur to expose the burn . We then treated her wound with flamazine (an antibacterial cream) and ongoing pain relief.
This was a challenging situation both clinically and socially / diplomatically. In truth, dealing with her injury was the least problematic issue. After we had dressed the burn we had to speak to the outreach team and try to put together a strategy that would push attendance at our clinic to the forefront of the minds of the people . We later spoke to the traditional healer directly and respectfully (despite a degree of anger) to avoid causing offence as these people have a significant standing in the community and it would be very bad form to go in all guns blazing. We managed to set up a system where the outreach people called by the healer daily and discussed patients with him, we were then able to arrange timely intervention where needed and at the same time avoided belittling the healer.
The fine line we walk in the field.
So, there we have it, the first of what will be an occasional story from my time with MSF. To keep this work going and to support this incredible global organisation please consider donating via my fundraiser HERE.