Monday, December 1, 2008

To be continued...

I was sick, burnt out, becoming cynical, and feeling like I was working on a project that wasn't doing good anymore (more on that later)- so last month I decided that it was time to leave Sudan. It was a sad day, I never wanted to leave the country that I learned to love but knew that the longer I stayed there the harder it would be to leave and come back to a 'normal' life. There are a million things that I will miss, but for now I am just trying to catch up on sleep, readjust to waking up in my own bed, have running water, good food all the time and my family close to me. I have thousands of photos and stories floating around in my head which I will continue to post. And as soon as I am recovered fully I will start the job search again with the hope of continuing to work towards peace in Sudan in some way or another.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The dreaded mozzies!!

I recently got diagnosed with malaria after returning from the swampland and being eaten alive every night by mosquitoes! It turns out that it was a fluke, which I found out after I had already taken all of the drugs to treat malaria which was actually worse than the malaria itself (malaria is a commonly misdiagnoses disease in Africa). The whole scary experience and being personally affected got me thinking more about diseases here, because I know that I was very lucky compared to many others in that I have the resources and knowledge to get well. Additionally we are insured with medical evacuation by flying ambulance should one of us really fall seriously ill. Malaria infects more than 500 million people a year and kills more than a million— one person dies about every 30 seconds!! I'm sure that many people die in Sudan due to lack of proper health clinics and infrastructure. When I first felt sick I was lucky to be in Juba where there is more access to healthcare, relatively speaking of course. I went to a local clinic where I was the only Kawaja. That whole clinic experience in and of itself was enough to make me never want to get sick again! There was one doctor and about 50 patients waiting to see the doctor for the few hours that he is there during the night. The doctor works alone in a one room clinic attached to the lab where they do blood tests and give injections. Every patient gets about 2 minutes to talk to the doctor before you are ushered out to give your blood in the equally as crowded lab. The test for malaria is simple and takes about 10 minutes, but you do need lab equipment and some expertise to be able to identify the disease. The treatment is also simple and cheap (although not always effective for all types of malaria). It costs less than $10 in Nairobi, which for me is nothing but to the average Sudanese family is probably a lot. Not to mention the costs that most people have to travel in order to actually reach a clinic to get a test and get the medicines to treat it. Malaria can come on quickly and if you don't catch it early enough people are not able to recover. It made me think about what can be done to stop people from dying of malaria. I guess as in every other health problem, the best cure is prevention. I recently heard of this charity who has a very simple mission- giving everyone a mosquito net... If everyone could sleep under a mosquito net they would be much safer from malaria. The difficulty again is the cost, because although for me $10 for a net is not much. For the average Sudanese-way too much! The charity nothing but nets ( is a good place to start on preventing malaria. Then of course there is the fact that the West is focusing more on impotence than research on diseases like malaria. Drugs to treat malaria should be cheaper, malaria tests should be cheaper, and maybe someday it will be eradicated (wishful thinking I know...)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Just another day (stuck) in the office

Our car slid off the road today and ended up stuck in the swamps... It took about 3 hours and lots of mud to finally get the car out. Not your typical day in the office unless you are working in Sudan!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oil country

Going out to the field last week I flew into a perfect airport with a great all weather airstrip and get into the car to drive on perfect roads. This is a new experience for me... You must be thinking that I'm in Juba or Khartoum or another big city in Sudan, but I actually just landed in a place called Tarjath (seriously in the middle of nowhere in Sudan). I'm sure you couldn't even find it on a map if you tried. (it's in Unity state if you do want to try...) The reason for the perfect roads, the perfect airstrip and the 3 flights a week here (as opposed to one flight a week to other places) is that this is the heart of the oil fields. Sudan is one of the largest oil producing countries in Africa, and much of it is being extracted by Chinese oil companies in this area. This was a driving factor in the long civil war and continues to be a major sticking point to lasting peace. (see Abyei for example). As I drive North of Tarjath to the place I will be staying, I see mile after mile of empty land except for the oil rigs and oil compounds that I see in the distance. All oil wells are connected by nice roads built only to take the oil out of Sudan. The workers at "the Companies" (as local people refer to them) are either expats or Sudanese brought in from the North. Local people might get a job as a cleaner or a cook, but never anything above that. Of course in the villages surrouding this enourmous wealth there is no school (the UNICEF tent that used to serve as a school fell down so students still learn under a tree), no clinic (although the oil companies have their own clinic only available to them), and hardly any development to show for the wealth but a few well maintained roads. Aside from the lack of development in the area the oil companies (and the bombings during the war) have driven away the animals. I was told that elephants used to migrate here but now they have moved to other areas, leaving the land is as deserted of animals as it is of people.