The Long Day


This report covers events of Thursday and Friday.  Life has settled into a routine.  I spent the day mounting equipment for the Solar system on the walls of the generator building. Tomorrow  I hope to start wiring it all up. Deng has hired a local young man to dig the holes in the ground needed for mounting of the solar array. The days are hot and the ground hard so it’s tough going. He is using a large metal bar to beat the earth until soil can be removed. Hopefully he will be finishing the holes today. He's probably not going to be happy when he is informed a trench for the wires is also needed. Shirlene spent the day with Dr. Gai observing rounds and in the outpatient clinic. She reports that much is being accomplished with very little resources. Some notable cases include a fox bite, STD cases, a newborn baby with pneumonia, a hyena attack victim now abandoned by her family and a meningitis case. One woman had been to two other hospitals without a diagnosis. Dr. Gai was able to provide her one interview and abdominal examination. I attach a picture of Shirlene at work in Surgery two days ago.

Gary managed to complete the repair of a flat tire on a motorbike.

We spent two hours re-arranging the communications equipment here and have mounted a new external antenna on the main router here. The result is a stronger Wifi signal to the residential part of the compound including a reasonable signal inside the residence of Deng Jongkuch and Deng Alier.

I am pleased to report the bees have been evicted from the backhoe. The technique that worked in this case was to wait until night and then insert a hose into the cavity they were residing in and then pour in the water.

With the backhoe available for duty, Thom and Gary embarked on the monumental task of getting the burned out container evicted from the compound. Many of you may not be aware we had a very serious fire in a container adjacent to the Hospital last year. Bees were at the root of this issue because their presence caused our Hospital staff to attempt to evict them with smoke. This led to the entire container going up in flames very nearly taking the hospital with it. Looking at the side of the Hospital you can see damage caused by the intensity of the heat and it is frankly a miracle that fire did not spread farther than it did.

Shipping containers, even burned out ones are exceedingly heavy and the backhoe and both men struggled mightily to move it. But after sufficient sweat and diesel fuel I am pleased to report that the container has been moved away from the hospital. Now it remains to determine what exactly to do with it. Ideas we have discussed: making a billboard out of it, cutting it into pieces and using it to pave the compound and dragging parts of it over the runway in an attempt to make it usable. At the moment it is a burnt out rusting hulk of metal adorning the entrance to our compound.

Speaking of the runway brings us to the other big concern of the day. A runway should be at least 2400 feet long and 50 feet wide to be usable for a caravan. To put that in perspective that is ½ of a mile long. Now in South Sudan such spaces are covered in field grass, thorn bushes, trees, termite mounds and mud bogs all of which of course are present on our airfield. The idea that the runway should be cleared for use seems like a good one until you are the one standing at the end of it with a bent piece of metal in your hand. This is the position that I and around 10 other able bodied MCH staff members found ourselves in tonight. The field grass here is not like the grass in Michigan. Remember that people here are building their houses out of this grass. It is long and tough and extremely well connected to the ground. We toiled for around 2 hours in the evening making what seemed to me to be little headway. We headed back to the compound at dusk dirty and exhausted. After rice and beans I took a shower and headed off to my bed. This moment when I am worn out by the effort it seems hopeless that we can succeed.

There has been some violence in the area that has gotten the attention of the locals. This one involves young men, Merle vs Dinka animosity, guns and cattle. A familiar recipe for trouble here. We are told that around 8 are dead and 20 wounded. None of these showed up at our hospital and were reportedly treated in nearly Bor. While such things are always a concern the Sudanese we do not think it a serious matter.

Today a few of us ride to Bor town to meet with Stephen Mathiang in his compound. I predict the ride to be as bumpy as it was when we arrived.


  • The condition of the airfield
  • Batteries for the hospital UPS