This morning we heard from security that we would not be going to Dhobley because of some administrative issues instead we would visit one of the sub-locations, Damajale, that the elder wished us to run a clinic. There has been no consistent healthcare there but the Ministry of Health has set up a clinic with a nurse and two community workers. We loaded up our 4x4 with seven people and medical supplies and drove to the center of Dadaab. There we waited for security reports and the four armed police traveling in a second vehicle to accompany us. The village square was a large dirt patch with groups of goats resting comfortably in a few spots, some police officers congregating in a shelter and we the Mzungus were left by ourselves.
We left Dadaab to take the dirt road to Liboi towards the border of Somalia. Since it has been pouring big deep pools of muddy water collected in the center of the road. At one point the front part of our jeep was submerged in muddy water. We passed through green pastures and acacia trees with green leaves and were told that the land was brown and dry a few weeks ago. Now we could even see small yellow flowers, many goats, cattle, donkeys and even camels. We passed through a town called Kulan and saw a World Food Program truck. The villages consist of mud or stick houses, some with UNHCR tarp and others were covered haphazardly with whatever plastic coverings that the owners could find. With a heavy downpour I wonder whether the inhabitants could even find a dry spot in their dwellings.
We swerved off the road that led to the Somalia border with the border guards a few meters from us and we could see the flags of Kenya and Somalia being flown. After two and a half hours of bumpy ride we reached our destination, a small structure with about three to four rooms, two of which became our consultation rooms and a third marked as “store” was used as the dispensary. A quick glance at the inside, one wished that the rooms were cleaner, the sink behind the desk was piled high with clutter of material and perhaps pots as well, the store room was filled with mouse droppings and the ceiling was threatened with termite nests. A youngster gave this room a quick sweep so we could deposit our three bags of medical supplies.
Krista took two of the armed guards with her to go to the village to teach sanitation leaving two other armed guards for the clinic, while Samuel, the water engineer, being a Kenyan was able to move around freely to assess the water situation. World Concern has been delivering water here. There is a bore hole in the village. He is also assessing the latrines here. Girls usually miss one week out of a month of school because of their period and it is hoped that with the latrines in school absenteeism will be reduced.
Soon words spread to the village that the clinic was open and one of our first patients was a young man who was bitten by a scorpion last night and presented with a swollen hand. My interpreter was Abdirizack, a primary school teacher. Many patients began to appear and I saw a stream of women and children and then an elder with colored beard who had a classic case of angina. I only had aspirin to offer him. Many children and young women were anemic and the children also had pica (the practice of eating soil). Two had fever and achiness but when I tested them for malaria they did not have it. The women were all heavily covered most with black coverings and when they pulled them down their clothes were mostly sweaty. Soon we were told to hurry up to get ready to leave as the road was difficult and it had started to rain we did not want to leave when it turned dark. We were told that we saw a total of 120 patients, more women than men and quite a number of children. I survived my first day with head scarf and long sleeves and skirt.
On our way home there was a brief altercation among the police who were supposed to provide security. Muhammad, our driver went down to defuse the situation. The police brought up the rear but I could not help but thought about the fact if there were landmines or IEDs we would be the first to encounter them. We reached Dadaab just before five pm without any incident.
To release the rest of my energy I ran a 5 km around the compound of World Concern. It was the best that I could do. The rain came pouring down again. The rainy season is finally here.