Care in Deleig, Darfur, at the mercy of the rains

© Stephan Große RÃ?¼schkamp/MSF Click for larger view © Stephan Große RÃ?¼schkamp/MSF Click for larger view © Stephan Große RÃ?¼schkamp/MSF Click for larger view
Twice a week, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) travels to Deleig, a small village in the western part of Darfur. There are currently some 20,000 displaced living there, having fled from the violence of militia loyal to the government. The mobile team has its hands full, as the refugees' problems are being further compounded by heavy rains. Stephan Große RÃ?¼schkamp accompanied the four national staff members in the mobile team. One minute per child at the most. That is all the time Suan Chua can spare for each individual, as she still has more than 160 little patients in the arms of their mothers queuing up outside the nutrition centre. The nurse routinely checks to see whether they are gaining weight 'on schedule', takes their temperature and sometimes their pulse. "One portion of CSB for little Halima here!" she calls to her Sudanese colleagues. CSB is a corn soya blend. As they hand out the millet meal enriched with proteins and sugar, Suan Chua is already beckoning to the next mother and child to come forward. Suan Chua is trying to make up for the time lost in the morning when the cross-country vehicles got stuck in the mud caused by the heavy rains. © Stephan Große RÃ?¼schkamp/MSF Click image for large view Suan Chua is trying to make up for the time lost in the morning when the cross-country vehicles got stuck in the mud caused by the heavy rains. "That's why it's particularly hectic today. But I still enjoy the work. It's terribly important that we look after the children." "That's why it's particularly hectic today. But I still enjoy the work. It's terribly important that we look after the children." The team in the nutrition centre in Deleig focuses its attentions primarily on the children, who are often not only malnourished, but also ill. If there are symptoms that suggest the child has malaria or pneumonia, Dr Dean Harris is called over. He is able to make a speedy diagnosis in the case of two-year-old Bahar: inflammation of the epipharynx and liquid deficiency. Dr Harris prescribes antibiotics and impresses upon the mother that she should give her daughter plenty of liquids. "This little one will be fit again in a matter of days," he tells her encouragingly. He is more worried about the countless children suffering from diarrhoea, which, in the case of exhausted and malnourished children, can be fatal. The cause of the diarrhoea is probably unclean drinking water. This is where water specialist, Dawn Taylor, plays her part in the team. She has already cleaned a well, and the water is now being pumped into two large plastic tanks. Together, they can hold 20,000 litres of water supplying 36 taps, and will now provide a source of clean drinking water for around 5,000 people. The refugees in Deleig are still having to cope with appalling conditions. Many have built inadequate shelters using sticks and bamboo. Some have managed to get their hands on a plastic sheet, which they have used to build tent-like constructions housing up to ten people. Others however, are left at the mercy of the wind and sand, and also the rains, which arrived a couple of weeks ago. © Stephan Große RÃ?¼schkamp/MSF Click image for large view "This little one will be fit again in a matter of days," he tells her encouragingly. He is more worried about the countless children suffering from diarrhoea, which, in the case of exhausted and malnourished children, can be fatal. And those in Darfur who have survived the militia-led massacres and being driven out of their looted villages are still not safe. "Women in particular are defenceless and are often subject to sexual violence," says midwife Christina Ambrose. "Many women - and even young girls - are raped as they go in search of food and firewood." MSF treats them in Deleig and offers them psychological support. The topic of sexual violence is taboo in Sudan and, at first, only a few had the courage to take part in the scheme. "But now more and more women are relating what they have been through," says Ambrose. "We cannot undo what has been done, but we can at least lend a sympathetic ear and treat them for sexually transmitted diseases." At around three in the afternoon, it is time for the four staffers to leave. They have to get back to Garsila, where they are based, before nightfall. The journey takes a long time, as the tracks have become muddy during the rainy season and are often difficult to drive on. © Stephan Große RÃ?¼schkamp/MSF Click image for large view Once more, they pass by the abandoned ruins of the villages that many of the refugees have fled from. They arrive back to a hearty welcome in Garsila. A lively group of children are splashing about in the river that has risen due to the recent rains. As the cross-country vehicles plough through the knee-deep water, the children wave to them in high spirits. That is all it takes to remind Dean, Christina, Dawn and Suan that being in Darfur is worthwhile.