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A testing day in Africa

Yesterday was one of the most testing days, physically, emotionally and practically. Africa threw as many curveballs as it could muster at us and on more than one occasion we wondered if we would ever reach Moyo.

After a desultory breakfast at the otherwise comfortable but oddly named Desert Breeze Hotel in Arua, we visited Fred’s house nearby. Fred was clearly overcome to welcome us to his home, and I am pleased that I can now picture where he is.

On then in the Kajo Keji Diocesan vehicle “God is Faithful” and Bishop Joseph’s Discovery when God is Faithful broke down in Koboko, Idi Amin’s birthplace. As always in Africa many offers of help of varying quality, but it was clear that vehicle could not continue: after an hour at the hot roadside another vehicle and driver was secured and we proceeded to Mojali to see the new CRESS clinic.

Lulu and Cecilia, the Clinical Officers, greeted us warmly and showed us around the new facilities. We handed over the medical books I had procured and talked about how things will work when the clinic officially opens next week. Then in the pouring rain, we assembled to move on to the Internally Displaced Persons Refugee Camp in Logo.

I became aware that perhaps vehicle #2 was not roadworthy when I noticed that there were no windscreen wipers, and proceeding along mud tracks in a thunderstorm became impossible. But worse was to follow when, after the rain had ceased, we skidded into the marshy verge and could not get out. Fortunately, we were only a mile short of Logo, and Israel kindly arranged a motorcycle to take me on so that I could see the camp.

IMG_20170927_152015The CRESS welcome ceremony was in full flow, and Caroline was addressing a large crowd of refugees (much ululating) as I arrived. Her jaw dropped as she saw a white man arriving on the back of a motorbike and thought “what has happened now?”

Jane and I were shown around the clinic where supplies are desperately short. No syringes, meagre antibiotics, no sheets for deliveries, and it appears no support from official refugee agencies.

There are 13-17,000 refugees in the camp with a 2 hour walk to Mojali, but given the security situation locating the CRESS clinic within the camp would not be safe. Once the CRESS clinic opens we hope Lulu and Cecilia will be able to offer a mobile service once or twice a week.

Already running late we departed the IDP camp to return to Mojali only for vehicle #2’s second flaw to become manifest, bald tyres resulting in an inability to get across the stream that marks the border between Uganda and South Sudan! Eventually (and with Fred and Joseph laughing continuously) some young muscle managed to extract the vehicle, dusk approaching, and return to Mojali, only to find the bearings on the front wheel of vehicle #2 had given up the ghost!!!!

This was becoming farcical, but God is Faithful came to our rescue, a roadside repair having been achieved in Koboko, and while we enjoyed Joel’s hospitality, the excellent CRESS driver, Eric, drove to pick us up and transport us the 2.5 hour journey onto Moto uneventfully. 

So I have now departed and return to UK tonight, but thoughts are with the rest of the team for what I hope is a trouble-free end of to their trip.

Dr. Jonathan Cullis

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