Benin: interview with Karin Uckrow and Irmgard Römpp – “The traces of damage are still clearly visible”

by Sven Ramones, 2010/11/26

Together with a medical team, Karin Uckrow and Imrgard Römpp are currently taking part in a mission in the flood regions of Benin. Days are long and exhausting for coordinator Karin and nurse Irmgard. Therefore, we are pleased all the more that together they have taken the time to answer some short questions about the situation in the country and their work in Benin in the framework of a written interview.

You have been to Benin for several days now. What is the current situation like?

It still rains from time to time and water levels are falling slowly. You could say that the situation is going back to normal. However, the traces of damaged caused by the floods are still clearly visible in some places.

Which relief measures are the most urgent ones and what are the most common problems?

In particular people living in remote areas still depend on supply with relief goods. Many flood victims do not only ask us for medical help, but also for food. The most common problems from a medical perspective are malaria, eye infections, respiratory infections, helminthiasis and diseases caused by worm infections.

What does a typical day for the humedica team look like? What kind of help do you offer and where?

We are active in the entire south of Benin. This means that we often have to drive long distances. Often we travel by car for three to four hours and then up to one hour more by boat in order to reach our destination.

Demand for medical aid is strong. Every day hundreds of people queue up in order to receive medical treatment. Photo: humedica/Karin Uckrow

We start out early in the morning, after having held our daily mission briefing with the entire team, including our drivers, interpreters and local nursing staff. Mostly, there are already people waiting for us at our destination. After our arrival, several hundreds of people in need of medical help often assemble within a matter of minutes.

We usually visit one mission location for two or three days. These missions are very intensive and demanding. The long journey, the heat, the loud crowd of waiting people, the pressure our team is subjected to due to the long queues – all this demands a lot of strength.

We often leave in a hurry, in order to avoid driving at dark. In the evening we discuss the work of the day, doctors draw up statistics and drugs are packed for the next day.

What are the most difficult situations you are faced with when doing your work?

Often the number of people who need help is so large we cannot treat all of them at, or have to tell them to come back at another time. Often, people who do not yet know our team do not believe us that we will return

For us personally, the hardest situations are the sheer endless hours we spend in the car. A drive of several hours becomes even more exhausting due to the bad roads and the usually dense traffic.

Have you experienced a particularly touching moment or situation?

During our latest mission, there were three little children who wanted to be treated without being accompanied by a parent. When we asked for their mother, we were told she was mentally confused. The children aged five, seven and twelve, told us that their father had died recently and that they had three more siblings – triplets who were three months old.

humedica takes care of the weakest ones in particular. Numerous children could already be treated by our medical teams. Photo: humedica/Karin Uckrow

A short time later, their grandmother came to us with the triplets. After posing some questions and receiving hesitating answers, we were told that besides medical care the largest problem was feeding the three babies, since their mother did not nurse them. We could clearly see that the triplets showed symptoms of undernutrition. All three of them behaved in an apathetic way.

After holding a meeting with the entire team, we were convinced that medical treatment alone would not be enough in this case. The three babies were in danger of starving. Therefore we decided to provide their grandmother with powdered mild for the triplets over the next ten days. We are furthermore trying to find a nutrition programme for this family in cooperation with other organisations.

The gratitude we could see in the grandmother’s eyes when she took leave of us was a particularly touching experience for all of us.

Dear Karin, dear Irmgard, thank you very much for this interview. We wish you all the best for the future and God’s blessings for your work.

Dear friends and sponsors, please continue supporting our work also in future. Many people in Benin have lost everything they had. Thanks to your help, our honorary teams can provide these people with medical care and hope.

Please support us by means of a donation via our online form or to the account below:

      humedica e. V.
      Donation reference "Flood Benin"
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

Your can also choose a secure, fast and direct way of supporting us by means of sending a text message: send a message containing the reference DOC to +49 8 11 90 and make a donation of 5 euros, with 4.83 euros of this amount being directly channelled into the humedica relief projects.

Thank you very much.

Disaster relief in Benin is implemented in cooperation with the German Foundation for Disaster Medicine (Deutsche Stiftung für Katastrophenmedizin, Tübingen), and is furthermore supported by the German Federal Foreign Office (Berlin). Thank you very much for this excellent cooperation.

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