17 November 2008

Medecins Sans Frontieres Bihar, India

When I visit my colleagues in the headquarters of Medecins Sans Frontieres in Amsterdam the emergency coordinator Vince gets hold of me and since I am not really busy with anything else at the moment he proposes that I fly (the very next day) into the flooded area for a couple of weeks to join the exploratory team during their assessment and initial response. Assessments and setting up a new project is always a very intense, energy draining job... but isn't that precisely what makes it such an interesting challenge? Before he ends his sentence I am already mentally prepared to go. And so I do - as planned - the very next day.
Meanwhile my bicycle will wait for my return in the basement of the Amsterdam office...

Now, almost 2 months after the Kosi river embankment in Nepal broke, many areas in the north of India are still cut off. People live in simple bamboo shelters and have nothing but what they were wearing on the day of the disaster. We have a difficult time finding out where people are and how to get to them. We operate two motorboats to transport our team into the flooded area. Transport along the rivers is fine. But often we get stuck in the muddy ground when going through rice fields. Some areas are so difficult to reach that we can only get out of the boat and wade through the water. We have several mobile medical teams roaming around the area plus a vaccination team to carry out measles and polio vaccinations (the original course of the Kosi river has one of the highest Polio prevalences in the world!) A Water and Sanitation specialist is looking into preventing communicable disease by chlorinating drinking water. I am almost at the end of my assignment (and at the end of my energy)...

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