Darfur, Sudan: Home visits from the teacher

© Martyn Broughton/MSF Click for large view My work is to make sure that people know how they can get treatment for their illnesses. I tell them about the MSF clinic and that it will be free. If they do not go to MSF it may not be free.
MSF's clinics there depend on local community workers going out into these corners to discover the medical and hygiene problems. Saleh Farrah is one of the "home visitors" and he explains the pains and pleasures of the work. "I used to be a maths teacher for primary schoolchildren but when all the new people came to the town, and then MSF came to help, I applied to work with them. I knew they were working in the hospital then so I had an idea of what they did. For me the most important part of the job is checking the houses and the huts and talking to the people about who are new arrivals and whether there have been any births or even deaths. And because of the training I had from MSF, I always try to advise the people about hygiene in their living place. I tell them to wash their children, stop them using the street as a toilet, clean the compound. Most of them are simple country people and they are happy to accept my advice. Perhaps it helps because I was a teacher and I know how to tell people how to do things the right way. They do have many problems because of the very crowded conditions. It spreads bad coughs and diarrhoea and even for a time there was measles until MSF helped with the vaccination campaign at the end of last year. When the people first arrive they are not happy. They stay outside the little compounds because it seems strange to be in such a small space in such a different place. But the worst part is the separation that happens. Families that are broken apart by the attacks. Some old people who could not run or even walk had to be left behind in the villages when the men came with guns. Some relatives ran in other directions, to Chad even. It makes them very sad here. They still don't know who had been killed. My work is to make sure that people know how they can get treatment for their illnesses. Sometimes there is a problem because they do not think of going to the clinic or they try to use traditional remedies. There is one that everyone uses for flu, which is good in fact. You get a special seed from a tree and put them in the fire and breath in the smoke. And you can mix it with oil and salt and water and rub it over the child and wrap them in a blanket for ten minutes. But then for other illnesses when they do not work they will tell me that they are not well and I tell them about the clinic and that it will be free. If they do not go to MSF it may not be free. They can pay 100 dinars to register, 100 more for the doctor and 300 for a basic anti-biotic. The other problem I have is to explain to pregnant women that they should go to the ante-natal clinic. They sometimes are afraid that they will be given drugs that will harm the baby. They are right to think of it but I have to tell them that the MSF clinics would not do that. And then there is the difficulty of people who want to go too much and they may not be very sick. I think it is the older ladies who do this. They are often saying, "I am in pain all over, here and here and in my legs and in my back". And it is difficult to know. I do not decide of course, because I am a home visitor and a teacher, who works for doctors." MSF runs four clinics in different parts of Kebkabiya town with up to 2,500 consultations each week. The team also provide outreach services to the Arab nomad population in the area around the town.