by Nat Crewe; DRG Team Leader
Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh
It was a sad morning – we had to say goodbye to the Dr Kate, our wonderful psychologist, who has to get back to her real job. The care and love she has shown to the refugees, and the team has been nothing short of angelic. Her energy, enthusiasm and professionalism is inspirational. We’ve lost a valuable team member and will miss her for these last few days. But she’s promised to come back in December and the project will be richer for it!
So, one member lighter, the rest of the team headed into Modushara camp, which is an extension of the Kutapalong camp we have been spending time in lately. We split into two teams, but stayed within 200m of each other in order to assist with treatments or stretcher carries.
Amy, Lily and I got busy almost immediately with a number of small children. Firstly a 2 year old with a fever and measles, something that seems to be becoming more and more apparent in the last few days. With all the families living in such close proximity, it’s inevitable that something like measles will spread like wildfire. Measles in a healthy, well nourished child can be a challenge, but for an undernourished, underweight and otherwise unwell child, it can be a death sentence.
In this area of the camp alone, there were quite a few cases of measles presented to us. Of real concern was a 4 year old boy who was limp and gaunt. He hadn’t eaten for 3 days. His observations weren’t too bad, but we arranged transport to the clinic to get him hydrated and fed. Although the Red Cross clinic is under less strain, we are sending all undernourished children to the busier MSF clinic. This is because they have an MOU with the Action Against Hunger right next door, and all children needing food get referred there after being treated by MSF.
We were then called by Alex and Shane to assist with a stretcher carry. A young lady with fever, with altered sensation in her extremities as well as diminished muscle tone. Given that we had been presented with a possible polio case just the day before, we were taking no chances and carried her out of the camp – a gruelling 3km walk in the heat.
Amy and Shane transported her to the Red Cross clinic, then travelled further south to Bagghona, where we had been told there was a very sick 3 year old. We had even been sent pictures – she actually looked like a 6 month old baby, she was so malnourished. She got a ride the the MSF clinic immediately.
Meanwhile Alex and I walked way out to what we thought was the edge of Kutapalong camp. But it just kept going and going. We walked for a couple of kilometres beyond the ‘official’ edge of the camp and we were still among shelters. We did eventually get to the fringe, where we found new arrivals, literally that day, cutting out places for themselves in the scrub and making their new ‘homes’.
We didn’t actually find any sick or injured people among them, which was a pleasant surprise. It would seem that the violence being perpetrated on their people as they flee has abated somewhat – no doubt due to international condemnation and scrutiny. But we heard continued stories of threats and intimidation. I doubt, given the recent past, that it would take much to frighten these people.
We met more people like us! For the first time since we’ve been here, we came across another roving medical team. Humanitas are a British NGO who have a team of doctors that hike into the camps with all their gear, set up shop in someone’s house and treat anyone who comes. They move on every couple of days in this fashion. They were highly enthusiastic about our model, and we have agreed to meet over a meal and talk further and learn more about each other!!
If you would like to help our mission, you can donate to the Backpacker Medics cause here: https://chuffed.org/project/bpmdrg-bangladesh#/supporters