Darfur: A beam of hope in Tawila Hospital
April 8, 2010
On that fateful Tuesday morning, Fatima endured an incomplete miscarriage after a two-month pregnancy. Fatima’s husband rented a car from their village, Khartoum Jadeed. The couple was joined by sympathetic family members: two male relatives and a female relative on a two hour and half journey to Tawila Hospital, in the North Darfur region of Sudan, at a cost of about five dollars per person. This is the closest hospital to many living in Tawila and the surrounding areas. Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) medical doctors, Dr Tijani Osman Abakar and Dr Carlos Sola, performed the medical procedure and removed what remained of the deceased fetus.
“Had Fatima not been treated, she may have bled to death or developed an infection, which ultimately would have led to her fatality,” said Dr Tijani.
Since December 2008, Fatima, like many of the inhabitants of the region, has had to find healthcare elsewhere as MSF was forced to suspend its activities in Tawila due to the deterioration of security. However with improvements in security, in October 2009 MSF was able to return to Tawila and revive its medical activities in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH). At that time the MoH was providing limited healthcare services in a tent. MSF decided to renovate an old MoH building in order to ensure the sustainability of medical services.
Fatima has two adopted children. Her husband’s second wife passed away and now she is raising the children. He works as a farmer in tobacco fields and agricultural produce, however the rains have been scarce, and this year the family was unable to buy ayash (sorghum), the main source of sustenance in Darfur.
The couple’s female relative, spoke of hunger, “We haven’t eaten since yesterday. We don’t eat bread, unless we come to Tawila. We don’t have bread, we are poor.”
Fortunately, the hospital is providing much needed, free healthcare to 28,600 people living in Tawila and the neighboring areas, including the displaced people living in the three camps: Rwanda, Dali and Argo. Many of these people fled the conflict in Darfur and have been living in these camps for years. This is the situation of 39 year old Al-Radiya.
On that same sunny morning, Al-Radiya made the 30 minute walk from her home in Rwanda Camp to Tawila Hospital, carrying her five year old daughter, Isra, on her back. Al-Radiya, her husband and seven children have been living in a gutiya, a straw-made hut, in Rwanda Camp in the Darfur region of Sudan for the last three years. They fled their village, Shokshoga, due to conflict. The family lost its cattle and land, and like all of their relatives and neighbors that lived in Shokshoga, they left with very little. Isra was suffering from a high fever since the previous night and the nurses have wrapped her up in cold towels. Isra was tested for malaria, and the results came out negative. By mid-afternoon her temperature had gone down, and Al-Radiya and Isra left the inpatient ward by the end of the day.
“Tawila Hospital helps so much and it’s the closest hospital to us, people from over 20 villages come here for free healthcare,” said Al-Radiya.
Al-Radiya works as a daily worker and her husband farms privately owned land. It is a struggle to put food on the table let alone pay their children’s school fees, yet she is hopeful.
“I pray that the future is better, life is beautiful, the living conditions are stable and people are settled in their homes,” said Al-Radiya.
MSF’s medical team is supporting the MoH in providing primary and secondary healthcare to the people of Tawila, including nutritional services, reproductive healthcare, psychological support, and through community health promotion. MSF will also support MoH staff through training, capacity-building, and the payment of incentives. MSF initially began working in Tawila in July 2007 and was providing identical medical services to the ones that are available in Tawila Hospital, during this period MSF suspended its medical activities several times due to insecurity in the area. However, moving the health services into this rehabilitated hospital building allows for better sanitary conditions and more importantly for the patients’ comfort and well-being.
Currently 62 MSF staff and 15 MoH staff are working in Tawila Hospital. In January and February 2010, the two partners provided over 6,000 outpatient consultations, 770 women and children were vaccinated, 750 women received antenatal consultations and 246 children under the age of five received nutritional care.
In Darfur, in addition to supporting the Ministry of Health in Tawila Hospital, MSF is also running a hospital in Shangil Tobaya, supporting five health centers Dar Zaghawa and a clinic in Kaguro.