Part III: The jinxed pirogue

Click for full view Pirogues are hollowed out trees, used throughout the DRC as basic transport. Over the past 18 months, MSF has vaccinated over 500,000 children in a continuing campaign against measles in some of the most inaccessible areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The next stage of the campaign will cover over 100,000 children in hundreds of villages across the health zone of Basankusu; an area about half the size of Belgium, but only accessible by pirogue or, at best, motorbike. Swedish nurse Jessica Nestrell is coordinating the vaccination, and over the next six months she will be sending regular dispatches from the field. Unfortunately, it has been raining quite a lot here in Mbandaka lately. Yesterday the pirogue going to Basankusu - complete with our cargo - filled with water and sank to the bottom of the river. This was the very same pirogue that had tipped over last week as it took off from Mbandaka. That time we managed to fish out some of the materials from the river and get them back on the pirogue. So yesterday, when we found out it had sunk again, we had to fish them out of the river for a second time. After all that fishing, in the end we decided that all the petrol, the heaviest item aboard, will go with the bigger ferry that runs every now and then upstream towards Kisangani. The departure of the infamous pirogue will now be postponed until early next week. We seem to be a bit blocked at the moment since the other materials necessary will arrive later than expected. We have also found out from local authorities responsible for vaccinations (called PEV) that they did not order the vaccines before we left for Basankusu to do the initial exploratory mission. Now we apparently need to write an official letter, together with them, in order to receive it. It remains to be seen how long it will take for them to process the order and transport everything to Mbandaka. To be held up by something like this feels very annoying since it could have easily been avoided. As for me, I will go back to Basankusu next week. I'm not entirely sure when, since the MSF plane is grounded while it undergoes a maintenance check in another town. I might be able to get myself on the plane of another organisation, but I might also try and get myself on that jinxed pirogue that is going to Basankusu with the cargo. In Basankusu I will hopefully be able to join the outreach team as they go on their regular visit to some of the health posts in the area. This is by far the most difficult pool to do since the population is living in very isolated areas and the roads, when they exist, are in worse conditions than in the other areas. As for the bigger future plans, we think that maybe we will go for the first pool sometime in the beginning of November. Fingers crossed. If everything goes well, we will do every pool in 10 days. Add on a few days for transporting and organizing and you have two weeks in total for each pool. There are three pools in total. We will try and work out a system to see if it is possible to start on the following pool before the current pool is completely finished. This we will have to work out later. Anyhow, I don't have anything more to say since nothing interesting has been happening. It is just ordinary.