Sebastian Frank supervises final steps in the construction of the hospital

by Sebastian Frank/SRI,  2010/03/08

At the end of January I received a surprising and completely unexpected phone call from Kaufbeuren. “Sebastian, we need somebody who could temporarily supervise our project in Niger. Are you interested and when could you start out?” was the content of the question asked by the humedica project department.

Sebastian Frank talking to the construction supervisors. Photo: humedica

From April to June 2008 I had taken over the position of project coordinator in charge in the Nigerian district of Kollo and supervised the complete first construction phase of the hospital which, in the meantime, has been operating for more than one year. During the first year of operation the 12 staff members were able to treat the substantial number of 13,900 people.

At the moment about 60 to 80 out-patients per day are treated at the hospital. The majority of patients at the hospital are children below the age of five. The number of patients is increasing, since meanwhile word of the hospital’s good reputation has spread and people cover ever longer distances in order to receive treatment in Kollo.

Some of the mothers with little children walk more than three hours (one-way) to the hospital for their children to be treated there.

Thanks to a donation of the company Alpensolar from Dietmannsried in the vicinity of Kempten the construction of an annexe to the hospital could be started in December 2009. The donation is used to the purpose of expanding the hospital building by an in-patient wing. Now construction works of the annexe are almost finished.

I was told by humedica that they needed an external expert in order to coordinate individual steps and processes during the last stage of construction and to accept the construction work. After a short consideration and after my employer had agreed to give me leave for this period, my mission was planned to last from the beginning to the middle of March.

Back in Niger my first action was to pull off my fleece jacket and put it tidily into my wardrobe to remain there until the day of my departure. Temperatures at the beginning of March amount to about 35 degrees, and hence this time I received a welcomed a little cooler than in 2008 from a climatic point of view; back then I had arrived in Niger in April with temperatures of more than 40 degrees.

Final installations in the field of electricity. Photo: humedica/Sebastian Frank

But the welcome I was given by the locals was all the warmer. I was surprised by the fact that so many different persons still remembered me, although my first mission had ended almost two years ago.

Seven hours after my arrival at 3 o’clock in the morning at the airport of Niamey, we drove to Kollo in order to view the state of the construction of the hospital. Also the hospital staff welcomed me warmly. Unfortunately I realised that I have forgotten almost all my vocabulary of “Zarma” (tribal language of the region) during the two years of absence.

And unfortunately the Swabian language has not yet established itself in the region. Therefore I can only make myself understood by means of my halting French and sign language, which I always emphasise with a hearty smile and a hopefully very friendly face.

Construction works of the in-patient wing are almost finished. Painting and tiling works are in their final stages, and only final installations need to be made in the field of sanitation and electricity. Sinks and taps, lights, ventilators and air conditioning units need to be installed.

At the moment everyone is busily working to complete the final steps. About 85 percent of the construction work has been finished, preliminary acceptance of the construction is planned to take place at the end of the 10th calendar week of 2010. The hospital staff shows a lot of interest in the progress of the construction. Also those living in the region frequently ask when the new hospital wing will be inaugurated.

By means of this new wing the hospital’s treatment possibilities will be extended by further important services. These services include:

• births and deliveries
• uncomplicated surgical interventions
• intensive treatment of critically ill children for several days

Dear readers, it is a pleasure and an honour to me to write down these lines about Niger. All the work and effort which have been put into this project up to now are bearing first fruit. Many people who entered this hospital have taken hope, future and life home with them. I would like to thank all those who have contributed to this project.

More than 10,000 patients have been treated since the inauguration of the hospital; a smile is the most wonderful way of saying thank you. Photo: humedica

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