Bahai beach

Friday, December 01, 2006

Bahai Beach 26

Bahai Beach 26

Rebels on the loose

December 1,2006

Mimi has a new hobby; pretending to observe my chooks in all innocence behind the fence. Before she just to be terrified by creatures with feathers but now her curiosity or hunger has overtaken the fear of being attacked sparrows only one month ago. To make sure my chickens are safe I bought two guardians; a handsome white rooster and a massive brown/black speckled 5-kilo monster. Luckily the main combat the chicklets face is still the cold, because cold it is at night.

An armed truce would be nice in Chad, or a resolution of the civil war. Yet the situation in Chad is getting more and more tangled up. There are several rebel groups fighting the central government and to make matters worse they are starting to fight one another. If the acronyms would not be so deadly, FUC, SCUD it would almost be funny.

The camp in the mean time has been stocked up with extra medication, petrol to maintain the pump system for the water and all chemicals required to purify the water for a month. Preparation to make sure that in the case we are not able to access the camp essential activities for a prolonged period of time our refugee staff can maintain the essential services. On Thursday I had a meeting with all my health staff to run through a list of topics; vaccination, transfer of patients requiring hospital, communication with IRC. By asking their views one can clearly understand that evacuations of international or Chadian staff is not new to them. It has happened to them before and it will happen again. They have an organizational and hierarchical system in place. There are three leaders per zone (total 9 leaders), one Umda (traditional leader) and all blocks having their own leaders. In a joking yet serious way they offered me to sleep in the camp. To quote Adam Suleiman (Community Health Supervisor and Zone leader) “Bahai is not a safe place, but in Oure Cassoni nobody will touch the NGO community”. Also Osman Imam was pulling my leg. “Biltine the site that was offered as an alternative site (although there is no water and Janjaweed a plenty) is currently the scene of heavy fighting between two rebel groups and you want us to go there?”

Today is the celebration of President Deby’s take over of power. I t would be very predictable that fighting flares up to disturb this special day. What is sure that the rebels have an action plan this time unlike in April when they just rushed towards the capital and with help of the French got stopped. Will the French remain sitting on the fence this time? In the Central African Republic they have actively been involved in fighting cross-border rebels.

In the camp I met one of my favorite moms. Her plump and powerful looking 1 year old has been earmarked to become a warrior in Mini Arcua Minawi’s Sudanese Liberation Army. We always joke with one and other about at which birthday he will get his first Kalashnikov. Bittersweet. The rumors circulating in the meant time is that a group of rebels will come to Bahai soon to sensitize the community. Code language for recruitment of fresh battle flesh.

More and more children are being born in the health care center. The messages to the community must be coming through and this despite traditional views and customs. I do hope this trend continues. We have plans to engage with the traditional birth attendants. In Zaghawa culture a relative or neighbor, who has limited training, but has learnt from her mother or grandmother, usually assists a delivery. In the camp these customs still prevail. On the one hand one has to respect these customs yet on the other hand there is a high maternal and neonatal mortality rate. A delicate area our new Assistant Reproductive Health Manager will have a nice job to do.

The ongoing stress is at times disheartening. Especially the threats of bandits, rebels, local populations who are after assets or revenge (relatives of the assassins of Mohammed Omar Goni) I think about him a lot. He walked the fine line between life and death. And he lived! He is doing well. What a blessing the news of yesterday. At any given time I feel negative or scared I try to focus on the kids in the camp with their beautiful smiles. I guess a wise man was right when he wrote: “ The only thing to fear is fear it self.” I love my work. The isolation, hardship, wear and tear, fear… it is all part of a much larger game.



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