Donkey and cart 'ambulance' used for elderly care in Mornay, Sudan

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Rowan Gillies, MSF International President, is working here on the donkey ambulance during his recent period in Darfur.

A less visible element of MSF care in Darfur, Sudan, has been with the elderly. Children and woman tend to be the focus of attention and the elderly can often suffer dramatically. This was the situation developing in Mornay when staff noticed a low number of elderly coming to the clinics.

To develop a care programme that will be effective, the teams has brought in a basic donkey and cart arrangement to act as the ambulance ferrying the elderly to treatment centres. The increased possibilities of accessing the elderly has improved the care being provided by MSF teams.

"We never seem to go into what happens with the old people in these conflicts or displacements," said Dr Rowan Gillies, MSF International President who worked in Darfur for over a month recently. "These were a kind of hidden group that just missed out."

Comunity health staff were used to go through the camp and local area and 'beat the bushes' to encourage a higher attendance at the healtth centres. However the numbers still seemed low. MSF staff discovered that many of these elderly were giving away all their food to other family members, sacrificing themselves and slowly dying of starvation.

To make the effort of coming to the MSF clinic easier, MSF arranged a donkey and cart setup and now staff criss-cross the area and put the elderly on the cart to transport them back to the health centres for treatment.

With those who were obviously destitute, MSF would bring them into the MSF facility for an evaluation, give them food for a day or two and then assist them in getting a ration card with the World Food Programme.