Mission report filed by Audrey Biney
Yesterday (Thursday, 1st July), our second attempt in a week to land in Battorkope was finally successful, and what an experience! Being my first landing on water, it was hard to hide my excitement and this was topped by the huge number of the villagers who had gathered to meet us with their usual big smiles, huge welcome and such enthusiasm. I was treated like royalty, they refused to let me walk through the water to get to the shore, and insisted on getting me a canoe for the final 10 step journey. After the welcome, Captain Yaw and I were led to their Church Hall where the Chiefs and elders and other members of the community gathered for our discussions.
It was very interactive and in our opinion, very productive. We gave them the opportunity to tell us what their main health issues/concerns were, and to explore how we could best help them. These were some of our findings:
--The main problem stems from the fact that their nearest health facility is some 18 miles away and they have no Doctors or Nurses in the village to attend to any health problems, emergency or otherwise.
--The first concern was voiced by the headmaster of their school, who is often confronted with sick/injured pupils at school who need immediate treatment.We suggested perhaps if we could get several individuals from the community trained as first aiders, they could be the first point of call in an emergency. Captain Yaw requested they selected suitable members for this post, who we could assess for suitability and have trained for the future.
Similarly, and following concerns about their pregnant ladies, again individuals could be trained to address these needs pre and post natal and during labour.
--It was also clear the children were not growing at the normal rate for their age, and nutrition clearly plays a big part in this. So the way forward could be to conduct some health education programmes on proper nutrition, focussing on the importance of a balanced diet and eating 5-a-day fruit/veg etc. Also they could grow moringa seeds, rich in vitamins, to add to their diet. Matthew offered to help with this project. Of course they could also grow their own fruit and veg on the vast land they live on. In addition, James, their current health educator and teacher has been tasked with getting together a growth chart - height and weight, of all the children, which would need to be updated regularly to monitor their growth.
Other concerns were the high number of Hernia/ Fever/ Diarhhoea/ Bilharzia and TB cases. These illnesses are preventable and could be addressed with education on proper hygiene care, starting with their source of drinking water. At the moment they have 5 bore holes from which they draw water, but this water has a high salt content and the boreholes need to be better cleaned/maintained. They could benefit generally from a teaching session on better cleanliness/ hygiene care.and safety measures. Also some advise from the water treatment company regarding the mineral level could be sought. We could also in future organise a session on correct lifting techniques.
--We enquired about vaccination and it appears there has been a programme in the past. We will need to look at their vaccination records to see if the children in particular, are up to date with their immunisations, and if not see how we can address this to prevent future illnesses.
--They also identified they have 24 patients with eye problems, so we are exploring how we can get someone over to properly diagnose them and look at future options for treatment.
--The final concern brought up was how they were struggling to keep their pupils in school past primary level. Again we need to educate them and more importantly their parents on the importance of education...a session we hope to run soon with them.
Ideally this community would love to have a doctor within the community at all times but this is not possible. What was clear from our visit was that we cannot achieve or resolve all their issues at once, it'll take time, but what is certain is that we can make a difference and will be able to help this community with hard work, perseverance and committment, and Captain Yaw explained this to them well with some fantastic analogies.
Finally Captain Yaw invited them to the event on the 12th November with the promise of a special area designated for them, and of course we couldn't leave without a few gifts for the children to keep them occupied.
They were all ecstatic and after a brief visit to their airstrip which they are working very hard to complete, we had a lovely farewell from them and embarked on our journey back to Kpong airfield. I must admit the take off was a little scary with Captain Yaw battling the choppy waters, but this all added to the excitement and I didn't even need my change of clothes!
We're looking forward to Mission 004 when we can go back with some solutions.