25.10.2010 50 °C
Having a quick facebook chat with a friend based in Bashi last night [I can connect to fb and talk to my cousin in Teddington but can I text my friend at her office at the end of the road or email my team in Gemena? Can I balls – different story...] < Finally taking a break next month, going on R&R with my girlfriend in Beirut, but see you in Kin for Xmas > he says. At what point in my life did it become normal to seek rest and relaxation in Beirut? But then we do spend our days in 35 degree heat searching for unexploded rockets and landmines so I guess it’s all relative.
I am still in Dongo, where I just closed my door to go to bed and a lizard landed on my face – I barely flinched, I am getting better with the vast array of bugs all over me on a daily basis. Today was easily the hottest day of my life, it was ridiculous heat, and has barely cooled down at 8pm. I spent the morning with a group of colleagues discussing floods in Zongo [a large town on the river directly opposite Bangui, the capital city of Central African Republic] which have started a cholera epidemic, destroyed crops right at the end of rainy season, and made refugees of the conflict homeless for the second time in less than a year. Makes the lizard incident look like a trip to New York Zoo.
At midday one of the medics told me Richard, our driver, had chronic toothache and needed treatment. Suspecting this might not be a simple trip to the local dentist and a 5 minute wait in line at the pharmacy, I asked what treatment might entail. The only dentist in Equateur Province is in Ntandala, more than 150km from Dongo, based at the military hospital. So they will need the car, some fuel, some money for food/water/somewhere to sleep, and will be back tomorrow night, I am thinking. If only it was that simple. The hospital can only afford to run its generator 3 days a week [Monday, Wednesday and Friday] and anyone expecting treatment must pay for a consultation, medicine, and fuel for the generator. Hardly universal. Lest we forget, my medic reminds me, that we will arrive tonight but Richard will need to be treated tomorrow, a Tuesday, when the hospital generator is not running. Merde! We need to take our generator and extra fuel to get him treated on a Tuesday, he tells me. So off they went, not a problem; we have the equipment, fuel and money to cover medical expenses. But about an hour later I thought about those few people who can afford to go to the hospital but don’t have a generator, or a budget line for medical expenses - pregnant women, people with malaria or cholera, motorbike drivers who have an accident – are they wheeled out into the bush on a Monday night to come back for more quinine/painkillers on Wednesday morning? Do they just have to hope the baby doesn’t come over the weekend? I am going to take a detour on my way back to Gemena to find out.