|After the Rain|
It’s the wet season here and what seems to happen is that after several days of hot and humid weather with mostly blue sky, clouds approach from the horizon with lots of lightening and then with strong winds and a drop in temperature that makes sleeping quite comfortable for a change the rain arrives in a heavy downpour that lasts a few hours. When its finished it can be pleasantly cool for half a day but the heat quickly returns. The massive potholes have of course filled up once again and the walk to work becomes a slippery filthy obstacle course as we try to avoid the worst of the mud. The mud dries over several days till only the deepest holes remain, and then the cycle starts all over again.
Another effect of the rain and storms is that airtravel to Aweil may be interrupted. Theres a surprising stream of MSF Staff coming and going – some are Officials doing the rounds and others are arriving or leaving at the end or the beginning of their missions in Aweil, or taking their mid-mission holiday. Last week and again yesterday, people who were expecting to leave didn’t, and others, such as the replacement anaesthetist, didn’t arrive. Maybe they will fly today – the rain has stopped. One of the people leaving has been visiting for just a few days, a French doctor called Romy Brauman who is one of the original MSF Doctors. He went to the Thai-Cambodia Border on his first mission in 1978 or thereabouts and was completely on his own. It was fascinating to hear his views about where MSF has been and where it is going. He predicted that once MSF leaves Aweil, as in every other mission ever completed by MSF, the local infrastructure will not be able to maintain the standard that was set by MSF, that there is always an inevitable collapse to something a whole lot less than what had existed before, and that our success will not be so much in what remains, but in the help we gave to the people who needed it while we were here. He didn’t seem in the least a starry eyed idealist wanting to change the world, but a very pragmatic humanitarian.
Next Thursday it will be my turn to head back, after six very fast weeks, weeks which have been much busier than the ones I spent in Ethiopia – there are more than three times the number of births here and again I am the sole Obstetrician. I am looking forward to a break but I don’t feel desperate to leave. In fact the longer I stay the more work I seem to find and the more I discover that needs to be done , especially in what the local staff need to learn. In spite of what Romy believes – and I agree with him about the future of this place – none of us wants to leave and think that once we have all gone, nothing enduring will remain. What we hope is the people we are trying to teach will do better when we are gone than they otherwise would have done, and therefore, indirectly, South Sudanese will continue to benefit from this mission. What I am finding with teaching is firstly that there is an enormous amount needed, but that we are so busy dealing with the day to day challenges of sick women that there is hardly any time left for it.