Thursday, 8 March 2012

6th March 2012

Last night brought a whole new experience to my time here. Around 10pm Makabe came to the house to ask if I could help her. She was clearly upset and it seems that earlier on that day, a 15 year old girl, who had been drinking coffee at Makabe’s house had decided to steal 4000 Birr from her bedroom. Now this is an enormous amount of money (approx. £160.00) and represents at least 4 months salary for most people. Yes, you have to ask why she had the cash in the house but I think she hadn’t been to the bank and all salaries are paid in cash here (her husband – who is currently in Addis - had been on a week camping to help the UK bike riders and so will have been paid extra money for this). So by the time I was asked to help, there were 10 people gather around the end of the pathway to our house. I think some of them were workers from the hospital but I didn’t know many of them. In the middle of this crowd was the young thief, looking pretty nonchalant and not appearing to be remotely upset to find herself in what I would imagine is a rather tricky situation. So she was marched off to the car, where a further 6 people piled in, making very sure that she could not escape. I drove them down Gimbie town to pick up Ashabere’s (Makabe’s husband) sister, who is apparently a police woman – or at least works somewhere in the police station – and we headed back to the town, down a very dark unmade road and to the police station. There we all waited while a policeman questioned the still dispassionate girl, occasionally waving his AK47 around just to remind her that he was indeed the law enforcement agent for the town. She firstly insisted that she had not taken the money, then that she took just 1000 Birr (why she thought anyone would believe that she’d leave 3000 behind, I don’t quite know). Her denial continued for at least 40 minutes, whilst I was given regular translations form the crowd that I had brought with me. The policeman seemed to be getting nowhere fast until the door was shut and presumably, the girl was searched.
Apparently, the thieving girl finally admitted that she did take the 4000 Birr but that she had then taken it to a friend in Gimbie. Indeed, the police search revealed that she currently only had 128 Birr on her. So now we all had to get back into the car, with the addition of the policeman, to find the woman who was allegedly in possession of the stolen cash. Back into the dark night and up Gimbie high street we went to what was later described as a cave rather than a home. Unsurprisingly, the woman was not in and the money was no-where to be seen.

Back we went to the police station where the girl was put in prison for the night. As we walked away at midnight, I heard shouting from the other prisoners and was very glad to be leaving.

More investigations today revealed nothing further, with the woman supposedly holding the money still being very much ‘out of town’. So the girl goes back to the cell and the police do further searching tomorrow.

After a heavy day at the health centre, a woman brought her new-born baby in to be treated by the faranji. The girl’s husband had died during the pregnancy and she had delivered the baby boy after many hours of labour at home. He was now 3 days old and sadly moribund. As I unfolded the cloth wrapped around him, revealing a buttered leaf stuck to his forehead, it was clear that this little chap didn’t have long in this world. After paying 5 Birr for (20p) for an ampule of 40% dextrose, I drenched my finger in the sugary liquid and let the baby weakly suck on it. I’m told that high levels of dextrose have some kind of analgesic effect, presumably working on the immature brain in some way. Anyway, what else could I do but try and make him comfortable before giving him back to his mother to hold whilst he died some 30 minutes later. All very avoidable if she had had her baby in a health centre or hospital instead of having prolonged labour at home, which probably meant that the baby was a bit compromised when born – or maybe aspirated meconium. Who knows?!?

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