The newest nation in the world...

Jenny_2010 Posted by Jenny Bell on Fri, 26 Aug 2011 | 1 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to Post this to Facebook

Dear Partners-in-Ministry,

A thin sliver of a crescent moon rose and a slight breeze came up as dusk fell. The dark faces of the half-dozen older Sudanese men I was sitting with became hard to discern as they blended with the night sky.

It was a surreal moment; here was I sitting in a circle outdoors with the State Minister of Health, the State Minister of Finance, the Commissioner for Yei, the head of the Yei County Health Department, and the Episcopal Bishop of Yei. We were discussing agreements between the government and Martha Clinic (run by the Episcopal Church). The State Minister was clear that he will put both Martha Clinic and also St Luke’s Clinic in Lainya on the list to receive medication from the government. He implied that our employees would be put on the government payroll if they submitted their qualifications for registration with the new government. This is a distinct step forward and we are hopeful that this will help Martha Clinic to be fully self-sustaining.

The newest nation in the world with plenty of challenges ahead; it’s a unique time to be here. The way in which systems are set up and managed at every level can have significant impact. Let us pray that the leaders make wise decisions and think of all the people of Sudan over their own pockets and relatives. The reason my meeting with the State Minister of Health was in the evening was because he had spent the day in an area where someone where someone without qualifications had been doing surgery. Finally someone in Juba placed an official complaint with the government after 5 of their relatives here had died. But the issue of trying to ensure that all health professionals’ qualifications are checked and registered is in reality very difficult to do here. Most have trained outside Sudan (Congo, Uganda) and travelling to the capital of Juba to register is not easy in a country without paved roads and with much poverty.

Last week the room was buzzing with the voices of about 60 women when I walked in. This was a 2-day refresher workshop for Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs), for which the midwife from our mobile clinic was doing the teaching. The conference had been arranged by an American Methodist woman here who is keen that we do not duplicate efforts (sensible idea rare among NGOs!). So many women from the outlying villages had come in – from Methodist connections, Episcopal (Mothers Union), and from villages the Martha mobile clinic serves. The Combe Down Mothers Union (Bath, UK) enabled some of the local MU women to attend. Numbers were further swelled by midwifery students from the Yei National Health Training Institute whom Jen Taylor (the young labour and delivery nurse who is with me for five weeks) is teaching.

Jen has been great to have around. We discovered that the second year midwifery students have not had any teachers for 6 months so Jen has leapt in to help. Fortunately English is the language of education here – but that doesn’t mean that all the students understand! Jen now has a fund of stories about how current midwifery practices here (e.g. holding the newborn upside down by its ankles if it is not breathing spontaneously after birth) could be updated. It is amusing to picture her witnessing her first Caesarian section here – dressed in the provided oversized green scrubs, a pink pillowcase on her head to cover her hair, and yellow Wellies/rubber boots for foot coverings!

I was encouraged last Thursday afternoon at Martha Clinic. At our weekly half-hour staff ‘devotions’ time, I’d decided to use Micah 6:8 spread over 3 sessions – the first on ‘act justly’, second on ‘love mercy’ and the third will be on ‘walk humbly with your God’. I led what turned into an interesting discussion on justice, as the staff debated which words in Kakwa (the most common tribal language in this area) and Juba Arabic most closely carried the same meaning. We usually begin with a time of worship/singing and close with praying for needs of one another and the patients. Following on that afternoon, we finally had our first medical education session for the staff, led by Aligo. The delay was related to earlier issues with Aligo so I was thrilled that it was finally happening. He did a very good presentation on malaria treatment and the staff participated really well (which is not common here).

Rainy season is in full swing now, with virtually daily rains, leaving lots of puddles and more mosquitoes! At least one frog manages to find its way into my home each evening. The cooler temperatures are welcome, even sometimes requiring a blanket at night!! The consequent rise in malaria wiped out our staff at Martha last week, with 2 of our 3 Clinical Officers and the senior nurse and Eye Clinic nurse all off at the same time. Driving becomes more of a challenge, as it is a huge cultural offence if you happen to splash a pedestrian. They can demand that you pay for a boda boda (motorbike) ride to go home to change their clothes.

I seem to spend so much time doing administrative work and long to be involved more clinically – teaching medicine especially. Tracking the finances for work is challenging as I deal in SIX currencies! The three projects that do have some outside funding are in three different currencies (Euros, British pounds, US Dollars). All three are changed to US Dollars, I pay for things here mostly in Sudanese pounds but also have to make purchases from Uganda in Ugandan shillings. My medical registration and other items are in Canadian dollars. So I have to be careful not to attempt to work on this mid-afternoon when the heat has turned my brain to mush!

The mail via MAF seems to be brought in about once/month. God graciously arranged for several parcels to arrive a few days before my birthday (29th July) so it was fun to have something to open on my birthday – as well as one card which actually was intended for my birthday! Birthdays are not celebrated by the Sudanese as most do not know their birthday (this makes tracking patients more difficult at work!). Another fallout from many years of war. Birthdays are a time of celebrating that unique person; it is sad that people here have not experienced that celebration of who they are.

On Tuesday 16th August, Jen and I leave Yei together for Entebbe, Uganda. I will begin the journey to spend a couple of weeks in eastern Canada mostly with Jonathan (youngest son, age 22) and also a few old friends. I’m really looking forward to the break. Unfortunately, Daniel is not able to join us this time and I cannot fit in a visit to the west coast to see my Mum, brother and Daniel as well. I am briefly in the UK on my return for a time of continuing medical education.

I continue to be very aware of how essential your support and prayers are in my daily coping here; thank you so much!

Thanks for remembering the following:
- wisdom on – what is essential to get done so that things can run smoothly in my absence
- what to attempt to get done before leaving in the limited time available
- travel logistics (of which there are many…)
- a refreshing and rest-full break
- for a fun holiday with Jonathan


Jenny Bell

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Claire Alexander said Sat, 23 Jul 2016 03:28PM
July 23, 2016 Dear Jenny, Online, I finally found you between Bath, Sudan and Uganda! Are you still using this email? Jenny Bell My emails have changed so often, I am no longer connected, but I do want to wish you a happy birthday, and God's rich blessings in your studies, travels, and teaching opportunities in the coming year. Perhaps the safest email to use is from my late studies at U. of Toronto. [email protected]. The university added the word MAIL to the address. I found a Dr. Jennifer Bell starting work this past February in Nanaimo. Are you connected? With love, Claire 2720 King-Vaughan Road, Maple ON L6A 2A9

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