Archive for the ‘Creepy-crawlies’ Category

When I first arrived in Sudan I was astonished to discover that the place was teeming with hedgehogs. They were everywhere! The moment darkness fell, out they would come with their squeaks and snuffles, hoovering up bugs with greedy little snouts and sneaking into our food store and mudhuts. My hedgehog paradigm was momentarily thrown off. Hedgehogs are quintessentially English, surely? Wintery little British garden creatures? Apparently not.

It had also never really occurred to me that people had strokes in Africa. I don’t know why. Strokes seem like a peculiarly Western affliction to me, for reasons I can’t really put my finger on. Perhaps it’s because we associate them with getting older, thus the low average life expectancy in many developing countries means that we don’t hear about them as frequently.

On Saturday, a critically ill, elderly man was brought to our health unit in Motot, carried by men from his village who had walked for hours. I arrived to find him lying on the floor (we don’t have an inpatients facility), paralysed and unable to speak, slipping in and out of consciousness. He was, perhaps, sixty years old and had been like this for two days.

We referred the man on to a medical facility with a doctor able to assess him. A day or so later, they told us that it was likely that he had suffered a stroke; that there was nothing they or anyone else could do. The doctor explained to the man’s wife how best to care for her husband at home, then contacted us and asked us to collect the patient. There are no options for long term care here.

And so this morning, we drove the paralysed man and his wife back to their village. He will live out the rest of his days on the floor of a dark mud hut, though he is luckier than some: he has a wife to care for him.

Some things are universal, it seems; though access to healthcare is not one of them.


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So here’s what my days look like in Motot:

  1. Awake to singing and the smell of wood smoke.
  2. Respond to the radio operator, “Mike Zulu Yankee base, this is …. “, to confirm I have not been eaten by a snake during the night.
  3. Walk through sand and dust/ankle-deep mud to the bucket shower. Evict any unwanted creatures. Shower.
  4. Emerge from shower to find goat being slaughtered immediately outside.
  5. Put on clean clothes, go outside, immediately become dirty.
  6. Spurn the sweet potato prepared for breakfast in favour of expired Fruit and Fibre (picking out the weevils).
  7. Go on monitoring visit to one of our project sites (emergency feeding, immunisations or community health education training).
  8. Attempt to stem feelings of anguish/anger.
  9. Return to the compound dripping with sweat, now covered with extra dirt donated by small children.
  10. Eat rice and goat.
  11. Return to office to assist in editing proposal requesting funding for humanitarian activities.
  12. Type with one hand using the other hand to flick away flies.
  13. Languish in the 39 degree heat.
  14. Team devotions. Participate in horrendously out of tune singing.
  15. Eat rice and goat.
  16. Watch poorly dubbed Kenyan/Mexican soap opera which may or may not include references to kidnap, murder, and bestiality in the space of one episode.
  17. Walk to mud hut with the assistance of stylish head torch.
  18. Read book on my Sony e-reader. Whoop.
  19. Take copious number of vitamin supplements to give the rice and goat a helping hand.
  20. Listen to the occasional gun shot.
  21. Get into bed and spend half an hour fastidiously tucking mosquito net into the mattress.
  22. Realise I need the toilet.

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  1. Giant flying beetle things keep falling out of the roof of my tukul. One nearly hit me on the head. And the other day I heard a slithery crackly sound – the kind of sound I’d imagine a snake to make, were it to live in the roof of a tukul.
  2. The bucket shower. When I went to try and take a shower on my first night it was full of giant creepy crawlies and lots of things flapping around the light bulb making a sound not dissimilar to a scene from ‘The Birds’. Thankfully in the day time it is free from aforesaid occupants.
  3. Flies, flies, flies. They’re everywhere and land on you constantly. I see no other option other than to become like one of those African children you see on adverts who let them crawl over their face and in their eyes without flinching.
  4. Boiled sweet potato and/or corn-on-the-cob for breakfast.
  5. The goat tethered behind my tukul. It knows it is going to be eaten and complains in an oddly human, slightly Brummie voice.

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