DRC diary (2)

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The lost files, this was a post I started as I continued the trip to one of the projects in DR Congo. It starts Jan 23 and continues to the end of the trip. I then visited another project and came back to the UK before the world went upside down.

Thursday Jan 23

Early start as we get ready to make our way to Walikale. We are traveling in two cars one filled with cargo as well as the data manager. Following the pre-agreed and pre-approved travel plan, Stella and I,  alongside, one of the projects teams wife (and little 3 month baby Ruth) and the mission mechanic and the security responsible with the driver. The car which travels first sends updates on our movement at predetermined times as well as unscheduled stops i.e. a flat tyre or two. 

The road is tarmac and smooth as we drive past dense forests and the houses just in front filled with families starting their day, kids running around all clothing with a haze of dust. the goats and little piglets crossing the road making us lunge forwards. This is the landscape for 6 hours we whizz past only slowing down when in the more dense towns, where music is basting and we again feel the vibrant energy of this country. We drive taking turns to hold baby Ruth watching her gently flutter her eyes as she falls asleep waking up slightly to jolts in the road. 

We arrive in the base to the excitement of the team, they know the journey is long. The data manager jumps out greeting the team with three soft bump of their heads, a sign of respect and excitedly inquiring about each others family and health. Through the chorus of Karibu’s, Bienvenues and Welcomes, we are taken through the office with introductions in a mix of the languages spoken here Swahili and French being the main as well as English. 

The compound is compact with all the necessities a living room space with netting for walls to keep the insects out without keeping the heat in. The bucket showers are made comfortable with the hot water readily available. We are given our radios which we must carry often within the compound and absolutely when leaving the base (alongside your identification and mission order explaining why you are in Congo). 

As we take our first walk through the town, we walk to the excited shouts of MSF accompanied with a thumbs up and a big smiles. There is no other INGO so all expats are recognized easily as MSF, alongside our mandatory visibility clothing or the UN peacekeeping army. At first i thought the children were shouting morning and then one my colleagues said no they are shouting the name of the UN peacekeeping army MONUC. Which we thought was morning! so were replying morning until this was clarified.

MSF is supporting most departments in the main hospital in Walikale as well as X health centers where they have outpatient services, a delivery room, maternity, and observation room as well as sexual gender based violence (sgbv) services. 

Our first walk through is at the hospital, we visit all departments supported and discuss with the team the data collected and the data flow. The hospital is well organized with clear systems in place – the team are proud and happy with their work, as they should be we are impressed already. 

Our training is over four days where we take over the lives of the medical team. Around our heavy schedule they must also fit in their regular tasks. We spend the days going over data entry, analysis and all the new data collection forms that will be used, system change is always a bit exciting but nerve wrecking as how the team have been reporting all the work their doing will change, there will be growing pains. 

The trip back to Goma begins the day before with the weighing of our luggage (and ourselves), MSF is given a designated luggage allowance by ICRC. We bring our bags and tags are stapled to them with our names and weight of the luggage. There is an energy on these movements the day starts early and sett off is 6am. We begin our goodbyes as we will not see the team the next day.

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