Niger: Adventure in the African bush – vaccinations outside Kollo

by Simone Winneg/SRI,  2009/05/21

After the go-ahead had been given for the meningitis-vaccination campaign in the humedica – clinic in Kollo some days ago, the vaccination team immediately left for new pastures: our first destination was the community of Namaro, 140 km northwest of Kollo, with the affiliated health centre, Larba. This was to be the first stop for our mobile team, in the midst of the bush.

Simone Winneg in Larba, talking to patients who are waiting patiently. Photo: humedica

Early in the morning, two fully-loaded jeeps, four nurses, one translator, two drivers, the German doctor Dr. Irmgard Harms and coordinator Simone Winneg left for the three-hour-drive to Larba. We drove through the African steppe, passing by the river Niger, goats, camels and herds of cows. In this period, during the hot season, everything is just yellow and brown, since there has been no rain for eight months.

After our arrival in Larba we went directly to the first village to carry out vaccinations: we set up our mobile health unit: syringes, vaccine, swabs, bins. The first to be vaccinated were the students – some were afraid, others brave, but all of them were surprised that the vaccination didn’t hurt at all and that there was actually no reason for fear. Many people arrived from the neighbouring villages. After two hours and 195 persons, we went on to the gold diggers town Congo-Moussa.

We were quite amazed by what we saw when we arrived: hills of scree and sand towered up in front of the little village, deep but narrow holes had been dug in the ground everywhere. Bob, our translator explained to us that these were the holes in which the men dug for gold, partly working up to 20 metres under the ground…without protection…searching for gold they pile up tons of clayey soil in order to find one gram of gold – if they are lucky.

Dr. Irmgard Harms preparing the daily vaccinations. Photo: humedica/Simone Winneg

When we had again arrived at a school (a small straw-hut with one table and a blackboard) we were able to continue vaccinating. There were no school desks and soon we noticed that the tiny hut didn’t offer much protection against dust and wind either. Word quickly got around about our vaccinations and many people came. Because of the deaths already claimed by the infection this year and the many cases of meningitis in this region, people are informed about the danger caused by it and are afraid of the disease.

Women, men and children gathered to receive the vaccination that can protect them from the disease during the next three years. To express their gratitude for our help, the village chief even brought us two chickens that our local team prepared for us later as an evening meal.

Our stay in Larba was finished three days (and seven chicken) later. We had been able to vaccinate 2900 people from seven different villages. Three exhausting days lay behind us during which we had been able to experience what daily life is like for the local people without running water from the pipe, without electricity, cooking with log fire and the few food items that are available on the market.

Receiving medical care is particularly difficult for people since the way to the next health centre or hospital is long and hardly manageable on foot. Therefore, people are extremely grateful and humedica’s work is extremely important for reaching those people who have been isolated from health care before.

Please support our work in Niger through a specific donation:

humedica e. V.
Reference "Help in need for Niger"
Account 47 47
Bank code 734 500 00
Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

Or donate online via the following link: "Help in need for Niger".

Africa as well: Latecomers are vaccinated from out of the car shortly before our departure. Photo: humedica/Simone Winneg

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