The Last Helicopter Ride
Kokar was to be my last destination as it was determined last night but this morning when the Chief came with his councilor the fourth seat which was supposed to be for me on the helicopter was quickly relinquished to the councilor. We were hoping to do a clinic there while the Chief met with the villagers and WC staff. The reason for my not going there as was explained by Andrew was that they did not feel safe for a “white person “ to do her clinic and they could not provide or promise security. I have heard many strange excuses before so I was not surprised.
So my last day of doing clinic was scratched and I went with Krista, Tracy and Samuel to Damajale to inspect the water situation and to see Krista do her sanitation demonstartion to the women there. It was very sweet of Krista to invite me so I was not stranded in the compound. Again the clinic in Damajale was closed tightly. The Community Healthcare worker ran hurriedly to open the consultation room thinking that we came to do clinic there.
Krista is an enthusiastic teacher and her translator, Fadum, a tall Kenyan Somali gathered eleven registered women and many other ladies under a tree sitting on a mat going over pictures of sanitation. The main concept was hand washing to prevent the spread of diseases. The women took a tea or lunch break after washing their hands. At the end of the session they were each given a wash basin.
Samuel took us to a borehole where water was pumped to the village. There is plenty of water now since it has been raining. Before then animals were dying and Samuel said there was an NGO whose sole purpose was the removal of the carcasses, he said the stench was unbearable. In the days of the drought, it was not unusual for people to walk for up to six hours to the next village to get water if the water pump in their own village did not work. We also learned that camel owners had to pay seven shillings a camel for water and the camels came once every 4 days to drink.
In the town square, there are drinking troughs for the animals. I saw a woman selling khat while caring for her baby and a few stalls away, a group of men were sitting and lying chewing khat, some of them were probably high on it.
Since it was my last helicopter ride, I asked the pilot whether he could perform some maneuvers for us and performed he did. We swooped up and then nose-dived close to the main road and followed the road closely for a while. He did some sharp banking and swooped closed to some acacia tree tops scaring some camels. It was one of our very best rides yet. We circled around Dadaab to get an aerial view of the town and looked for the UN and our compounds.
I learned a lot about the doings of World Concern having heard of this organization for the first time. They seem to concentrate their efforts in the delivery of food in the form of vouchers for many families affected by the famine, the delivery of non-food items such as mosquito nets, plastic sheeting, pots, etc., the delivery of water in the form of borehole, truck delivery of water, in the availability of latrines and sanitation education for the communities. I like their philosophy of educating the communities that they own their problems and that they have to come up with solutions for the problems even if jointly with WC and eventually when all NGOs leave if they ever, the communities will know how to sustain the solutions.
The health bit is a collaboration of Medical Teams International with WC which at this point is not as well coordinated perhaps because it is just a medical relief now. I hope that with time the medication available will be more in line with the needs of the communities and that something can be offered for the nutritional status of the children.
I am sad to leave this medical relief having the feeling that I really did not accomplish all that I came here to do. Having said that, we did provide crucial medical needs of the communities that we visited; some like Hamey has good hardworking healthcare persons to care for them but others such as Damajale, despite the presence of a facility receives only sporadic care and Kokar enjoys none of the above. However security situation is such that we have been prevented from crossing the border to Somalia. The upside was the helicopter saved us many hours of difficult road traveling. I guess God has his own way of arranging things for us. Perhaps someday for me helping out in Somalia may still come true.