Urgent work in Chad

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Mark Hawkins
Friday, 4 January, 2013

The team in Massaguet

Our dedicated team of Nutrition coordinators in Massaguet, Chad.

I have recently returned from Chad where I spent two weeks in one of Merlin’s newest programmes. I visited our main operational base in Massaguet, just over an hour’s drive east from the capital city of N’djamena.

The southern part of Chad is in the Sahel region of Africa.  Sahel was in the headlines earlier in 2012 due to a drought. This is why Merlin is on the ground now providing urgent emergency aid.

I was in Massaguet for around five days setting up radio communications and helping the team with their plans for future expansion further to the east. One evening, we received a call from the local hospital where one of the wards Merlin was supporting was plunged into complete darkness. When we turned up, I carried out a few checks and established that there was power to the lights. A simple change of a tube would hopefully solve the problem. As a poorly resourced hospital there were no spares, so one of the Logistics team was dispatched to the local market to buy some more tubes.

Whilst waiting for the tubes to arrive, I started to look around the hospital. For the size of population covered, it’s not a very large hospital, perhaps a maximum of 8 wards?

Within the grounds of the hospital, there were plenty of relatives of the sick. They all had good reason to be there and they have a very important role to play in the care of sick family members. Unlike hospitals in the UK where some visitors moan about paying car parking charges for a few hours visit, things are different in Chad.

No complaints

Car parking is not an issue at the Massaguet Hospital, in fact the only vehicles seen will belong to Merlin or the Ministry of Health. Most patients are transported to hospital by foot often carried by other family members across desert conditions. Some distances involved are equivalent to my daily 60km cycle ride and will take a few days.

The families staying within the grounds will  perform a very essential role for family sick members; they will prepare the meals for the duration of the stay. This is normal practice for many hospitals across Africa, no cause for complaints about hospital food here.

In the dark ward, there is an infant barely more than 4 weeks old crying loudly. He is in a very bad way as he is suffering from malnutrition. He is in one of 10 very large beds in the ward with his mother. A nurse was gently rubbing some lotion into the baby who was “Red” in colour. One of the Merlin told me that this baby was meant to be black, but the red colour was one of the symptoms of malnutrition.

Had this baby not reached the Merlin Therapeutic Feeding team within a few more days, he would have become another person to add the very high mortality rate of the Sahel region.

This was not an occasion to use photography but I will leave this desperate scene to your imagination. This baby will be saved. As his condition improves, he will be moved to the second ward where follow up treatment will take place. When the baby is well enough, he will be discharged from Hospital. Sadly I can not guarantee a happy outcome as he will no doubt return back to some remote village where food and water is in short supply.

"A job well done for the hospital, but what can be done to prevent babies and infants from getting to this sorry state in the first place?"

Idi, is the Senior Logistician for Massaguet, originally from Burundi; he has many years’ experience in providing support to programmes throughout Africa. Whilst coordinating the Logistics for the Merlin Chad programme (and providing some support for my work) he was also part of the team drawing up plans to provide clean water to some villages in the region. Things will move fast and by the time this article gets posted online, the planning will be complete and Merlin will start work and clean water will begin to flow into a few villages somewhere in the Sahel region of Chad.

Back here in the UK, the countdown clock is running quickly towards the big ride which begins at the end of August 2013. My target of £20,000 is a long way off but with everyone’s help, I will get there. As an aid worker (and Merlin insider), I can assure everyone that money raised will be spent intelligently. We are fast, dynamic and effective. When I am cycling from the UK to Africa, there will be low spots as I reach the massive hills of Spain, but I do know that if I keep focused on the things Merlin will achieve with your kind donations, I will keep going!

You can sponsor me here