"People’s misery is immense"

by Sven Ramones,  2012/02/10

Inna Warkentin already participated in a humedica mission in Ethiopia in October last year. At the beginning of this year the nurse returned to the east African country, in order to help the ill and needy persons at the Melkadida refugee camp.

This is her second mission at the Horn of Africa: nurse Inna Warkentin. Photo: humedica/Sven Ramones

The 31-year old woman from Meinerzhagen in the Sauerland will stay in the region surrounding the town of Dollo Ado at the border to Somalia for a period of three months. There are still about 120,000 people living in tent cities, as they had to flee their home country due to the consequences of droughts, famine and violence.

After another busy day at the humedica health station at Melkadida, Inna took out some time for a short interview with us. She granted us an insight into her daily routine and shared her personal impressions with us.

Inna, this is already your second humedica mission in Ethiopia. What was your motivation to return?

During the four weeks I spent here last year, I noticed the huge demand for help at the refugee camps. They lack so many things and the people’s misery is immense. The refugees depend on support in so many aspects, starting from the most essential needs. They depend on external help regarding simply everything they need for living.

Of course, at such a large camp like Melkadida, with almost 40,000 inhabitants, correspondingly efficient medical care is absolutely necessary. During my first mission at the humedica health station I realised how important it is to be able to rely on continuous structures, that is on doctors and nurses who are active at the camp for a longer period of time.

Therefore, I wanted to return to Ethiopia for a longer time and offer my assistance. Fortunately, I also had the time to do so. Shortly before the mission I had quit my job and after the mission I am planning to finish my health and nursing management studies in Germany.

Could you describe your typical daily routine in the project?

In the morning, after breakfast, I usually visit the health centre of our Ethiopian partner organisation, where we have been offering our assistance and support since last year. There, I spend the first few hours of the day with nursing the in-patients together with the other staff members.

After that, at about 11 a.m., I drive to our own health station at the other end of the camp, where I treat and dress wounds. I also make regular “house calls” on patients in the camp, and nurse them at their homes, if they are too weak to come to one of the health stations.

Some of the people are too weak to ask for treatment at a health station. They are offered medical care at their tents. Photo: humedica/Enoxi Sureka

After the joint team lunch break, I return to the health station. There I am in charge of triage (Note: classification of patients according to three different degrees of treatment urgency) for the afternoon, and again I take care of bandages and wound dressings and of some organisational matters.

After work, when we return to the premises of our accommodation, we need to sterilise the instruments for the next day and prepare medications. Afterwards we have dinner and spend the last few hours of the evening together with the team.

What do the people who come to the health station need most urgently?

First of all, they need medical treatment. Many of the people come to see us with respiratory diseases, diarrhoea, worm infections or skin diseases. We frequently treat patients who for example stepped on thorns, which got stuck in their feet. As hygiene conditions are fairly bad here, such wounds often get infected quickly.

However, there is something the people need beyond that, which we cannot give them in form of a pill or an injection. What many of the persons living here really need is attention. Someone who cares for them, who listens and does not turn them away.

Someone who shows them that they are not forgotten and alone. Life at the refugee camp is hard enough in any case. Therefore, we try to give them some affection onto their way.

Is there anything you are missing during your mission?

Going outdoors, being alone, private sphere. We have to stick very close to the safety regulations for international relief organisations. That means for example that after dark we should no longer leave the premises of our accommodation.

Tents are shared by two team members each and therefore it is quite difficult to find some privacy and time for oneself.

What has left the deepest impression on you during your mission?

Despite their dismal living conditions, the people at the refugee camps can still smile. Photo: humedica/Nicole Steinert

Even after so much time, I am still impressed at how the people at the refugee camp manage to live under these dismal conditions, with the heat, dryness and dirt.

The few things the refugees have in their tents are often limited to some old mattresses and mosquito nets. Apart from that, they own some clothes and other small belongings.

Their life is hard and for us it is probably impossible to imagine their situation. But all the more I admire the fact that the people here are still pleased about the simplest things, and I am impressed by their friendliness and cheerfulness.

Dear Inna, thank you very much for the interview. We would like to wish you all the best for the remaining time of your mission and God’s blessings.

Dear friends and sponsors, the people at the refugee camps continue to depend on our support. Please help us to relieve the people of their misery and support our relief measures at the Horn of Africa by means of a targeted donation. Thank you very much.

      humedica e. V.
      Donation reference “Famine relief Africa
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren
      IBAN: DE35734500000000004747

You can also achieve great results by means of sending a short text message: send a text message containing the reference DOC to +49 8 11 90. Your mobile bill will be charged with 5 euros, with 4.83 euros of this amount being directly channelled into the humedica project work. Thank you very much!

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