„We were taken to our patients by boat“

by Dr. Lothar Biskup/RBU,  2010/12/08

As at the beginning of the year in Haiti, Dr Lothar Biskup did not eschew any exertions in order to help people in misery after the latest devastating floods in West Africa. For a period of two weeks the paediatrician from Neuss had taken part in a humedica mission in Benin. Two weeks full of challenges and lingering impressions.

Charity in Action: for two weeks, the paediatrician Dr Lothar Biskup treated the victims of the heavy floods in Benin. Photo: humedica/Irmgard Römpp

“Leaving behind the cold and humid weather of the Rhineland in Germany, I arrived in Benin some weeks ago, in order to help the victims of the flood together with humedica and my medical colleagues Dr Gerhard Gradl, coordinator Karin Uckrow, and the nurses Irmgard Römpp and Herbert Seitz.

We administered our first treatments of this mission in the outskirts of the megacity Cotonou. What caught my attention first was the attitude the people showed towards us: from the first minute, they showed no signs of suspicion, but instead they were immediately friendly and grateful for our arrival. Their living conditions, in turn, were alarming.

Due to the heavy rainfalls, the entire region had turned into a landscape of lakes and marshes. The people’s settlements were located on low islands protruding from the water and could only be reached by boat. There were no engines and the canoe-like boats were instead driven and steered by means of pushing them forward with wooden poles, much like the gondolas in Venice.

The houses and huts were built on poles, the water was dirty and with the utmost certainty also polluted by bacteria and it therefore posed a threat to people’s health.

Furthermore, the wells of most villages had been flooded and polluted to a dangerous extent due to the almost stagnant water mixing with contents from the sewers. As a consequence, the people who asked us for help suffered above all from infections caused by worms, amoebas, diverse bacteria, and in particular from diseases carried by leeches.

The German relief teams were taken to their patients by means of gondola-like boats. Photo: humedica/Gerhard Gradl

Equipped with our drugs, we were taken to a different village each day with the objective of visiting the same treatment locations according to a regular schedule and by doing so seeing the same patients again.

In each individual village, there always was a large crowd of people waiting for our help: above all women and children, but also men of all ages. Besides numerous gastro-intestinal diseases and worm infections, we also treated other internistic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, bronchitis, pneumonia and infections of the urinary tract. We also encountered several cases of malaria.

On two days we administered treatment at a refugee camp north of the city of Cotonou, where Caritas Benin and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which is responsible for protecting and supporting refugees, have set up tents on dry ground in order to give shelter to 700 people who had lost their homes. After we had treated 230 patients during the day, we were suddenly roused from our sleep at night.

A man had brought his young woman to us on his moped. She was in labour and her amniotic fluid had broken even before they had started their trip to our camp. This situation posed several challenges to us: we had no electricity, no running – not to mention – boiled water, no clean sheets and no instruments such as umbilical cord clamps.

Nevertheless, we managed to assist the birth. In the light of torches and headlamps the spontaneous delivery took place within only a few moments. In a smooth – although in this case first – cooperation of doctor, nurse and paediatrician, we could take care of the new-born girl successfully and without difficulties; we clamped the umbilical cord with a thread and put little Marie-Louise into her mother’s arms.

I worked in Benin for a total period of two weeks and I will keep this humedica mission in good memories thanks to its excellent and intensive team work. We were able to offer help to a large number of people and they expressed their gratitude for this. Despite their deep misery, everyone was amazingly content when we left – including us.

Even when they arrived, the humedica mission team was awaited by numerous patients. Photo: humedica/Florian Klinner

I would like to extend a warm thanks to our dear coordinator Karin, to Irmgard, Gerhard and Herbert for their faithful cooperation, for many interesting talks and above all for the useful joint efforts we made during our mission.

Kind regards,
Yours Lothar Biskup”

A medical team of humedica will continue to treat patients in the West African country for another two weeks. Day by day they ease pain and day by day they give new hope. We are furthermore planning to send drugs, food and other necessary aid shipments to Benin until the end of January 2011.

Please continue supporting our efforts for living Charity in Action. Thank you very much.

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

You can also support us in a secure, simple and fast way by means of sending a text message: send a text message containing the reference DOC to +49 8 11 90. By doing so you will make a donation of 5 euros, with 4.83 euros of this amount being directly channelled into the humedica relief projects. You are also welcome to support our work by means of donating via our online form.

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