Saturday, October 8, 2011

Maaley from Mattar

Greetings from Mattar, Ethiopia...I've been here two months, with another 4 to go. I went to France to study French and on my return passed through the MSF New York office and was offered a 6 month mission here in Mattar (English speaking mission...oh well). Remote, hot, humid, managing a health center that is a clinic/hospital (25 beds) serving the Nuer popultion in South Western Ethiopia, just a few kms from the Sudan border. Access is 3-4 hours by car, or right now (the rainy season, the road is washed out in a few places) by a 5-6 hour boat ride....which is what I just did in order to take my 2 day break in the nearest town, Gambella, where our support log is based and where there is internet and cell phone coverage...neither available in Mattar. I work with a great team, mix of French, Nigerian, Rwandan,British, and American, We work 6 days a week, hard work, never boring, and I think we do good work. the Nuer people are pastoralists, big cattle herds, very friendly, very tall, very skinny and very tough. Life is pretty basic for them. We see about 2000 people a month at the health center,lots of malaria right now and repiratory problems...due to the rains. I am seeing a few things I have never seen before, like tetanus (most die), kala zar (he lived) but not much else that is new.
The heat was the first thing I noticed, oppresive, I was and still am a sweat ball most of the time. The first two weeks were the hardest, and now after two months I sometimes sleep with a blanket...who knew? It's the rainy season and the rain is significant. It turns the earth into tar-like mud, washing out the road access, so now travel out of Mattar is by river only. The river is beautiful and tempting, but we don't swim in it even tho the Nuer people do...we aren't allowed, crocs, which until I made the boat trip, I was doubting, but after actually see 3 on the banks, I am now a believer.
My job is managing the person I work with likened it to herding cats....amazingly accurate description and I love cats, but dumbfounding none the less.
When I first arrived I wasn't impressed...but I thought...I can do this for 6 months, I can do anything for 6 months...but now, it has grown on me. I feel useful, which for me is important. I have no illusions about making a significant difference, but a small ripple is enough and OK.
I'm impressed with MSF and honored to be here.
Will post pictures when I can...