Dr. Henry Reitzug of Puyallup, a member of the board of directors of Lakewood’s Northwest Commercial Bank, is on a mission to Darfur, Sudan, as part of Tearfund, a leading relief and development charity, working in partnership with Christian agencies and churches worldwide. Dr. Reitzug has been sending his observations of the country and people and we are reprinting them (in a series) with his permission. Read the other installments (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen)
Ed Daein, South Darfur, Sudan – Wednesday 6/4/08 – 7 pm
At long last I got to go to work. I made rounds, touched patients, solved medical problems, went to an IDP camp, and analyzed data in preparation for making my consultant report.
This morning I went to the Stabilization Center for severely malnourished children with complicating medical problems. It is located on the grounds of the local hospital in Ed Daein, across the courtyard from the Pediatric Ward. A nice young doctor from the Ministry of Health, Dr. Mozamil, and another Medical Officer (similar to a PA) cover this unit along with 5 Nurses and 7 nutritional specialists from Tearfund. The Stabilization Center (SC) is across the courtyard from the Pediatric Ward, and there could not be a greater contrast. While the Pediatric Ward is dirty, smelly, dark, and reminiscent of the worst I have seen, the SC is clean, bright, airy, and the people exude love. It is needed because these children and their mothers are beyond mere caloric deprivation. I am going to try to enclose a picture to tell the story. (NO I did not get arrested – in private it is OK). Lots of human touch, solid medical care, and Plumpy Nut (the nutritional paste that works so magically) will also help.
The unit (16 beds) was packed out and 6 additional admissions had beds set up on the enclosed porch. One of the ones admitted last night had waited too long ‚Äì had been to the traditional healer – and was agonizing in the last gasps of what looked like malnutrition complicated by malaria. I’m not sure if the extreme measures we undertook were enough and if I will be seeing that child tomorrow morning when I go there again. Every developing country has traditional healers; they scrape and scar the skin, bleed the child, and heaven knows what other medieval forms of terror they inflict on these poor children and their mothers. Big problem and one of the main reasons for a high childhood mortality rate!
Later we went to the Khoromer IDP camp where thousands of displaced Dinka tribe people now call home, some for quite a few years already. The supplemental nutrition program was in full swing there. Again, it was very well run by wonderful, loving people from Tearfund.
This afternoon I got to do some program and statistical analysis and had more discussions. In the last 12 months the population of the IDP camps has swelled from 63,000 to 104,000 ‚Äì and all of them depend on humanitarian help. It is stretching the NGO’s as well as the local people they employ. Ed Daein seems to have become a safe haven surrounded by fighting to the north and to the south, driving people to the camps surrounding it. Camps however are never set up in anything but left over land, so you can imagine what the living conditions are like.
Coming back from the camp today the land all looked left over and abused. Not only was it tortured by animals and Land Rovers ‚Äì people make their own roads where they see fit ‚Äì it is also littered with millions of used plastic bags blown against fences, bushes, trees, and in some cases just covering the ground like snow. I think all the humanitarian aid is dispensed in bags, which are emptied of contents, and then allowed to litter the land as far as the eye can see ‚Äì the appearance of an endless garbage dump. Some of the roads in town are likewise littered with mounds of trash, with goats picking their way through the top of it for morsels of delight that only they can enjoy.
I have resisted eating the mystery meat served at lunch and dinner in various savory concoctions (or pungent, depending on the ethnicity of your sniffer) for fear it may be a former garbage-eating goat. Rice and beans has been pretty much it for me. It is brutally hot and I have to drink gallons of water to keep up the hydration so the appetite is pretty gone anyway.
I am doing better with my culture shock, anxiety, loneliness, etc, even though this place abounds with creepy, crawly things. I trust that God will keep the 3 inch locusts, the camel spiders, and the 4-wheel drive cockroaches off me while I sleep. I killed a camel spider in the toilet room prior to squatting yesterday. There was also a 3 inch frog hopping around but he had the good sense to leave me alone. He hid behind the water bucket. (Maybe he held his nose). This morning one of those locusts jumped around the shower room and perched on my towel while I showered. Definitely not the Four Seasons Hotel.
I need to end this for today because I need to set up the BGAN so I can send this before supper. We have worship service tonight after supper. We do that on Wednesday and Sunday evenings and Friday mornings. Thanks for all your e-mails and especially your continued prayers. They really do help.