Another week of heavy rain and the roads are now becoming very slippery indeed. Yesterday, I tried to get to the Ganjii antenatal clinic but when we got to Haru, just 30 minutes out of Gimbie, there was a huge lorry with a trailer stuck in the ditch and unfortunately blocking the road. Since it was still raining, the driver had relocated himself to a dry place, leaving us and the bus waiting for………..what?? Nevertheless, in good Ethiopian style, we did wait – for an hour – and then we decided to find the traffic police as they should be dealing with the situation. We brought the rather unperturbed policeman to the scene of the road block but by the time we arrived, the driver had returned to his vehicle. The policeman also returned to his post, leaving a team of locals helping to dig out the lorry. After about 30 minutes, however, all ‘tools’ were downed on the basis that nothing could be done but to wait for the sun to dry out the mud. Well, this was clearly going to take a very long time as the sun was firmly hidden by numerous rain clouds. So after 2 hours of waiting, we decided to return to Gimbie, having achieved nothing other than got cold and wet and a bit muddy. I clearly felt bad about the women who will have walked to the antenatal clinic and so was relieved to hear from the head of the health centre that it was also pouring with rain in Ganjii and that very few women had turned up to the clinic. He also added that there was another lorry blocking the road there, making any form of access impossible. What happens in an emergency, I wonder? They are totally cut off from any hospital care.
Positive aspects of the rain: 1) it provides lots of water for washing and drinking; 2) the crops will grow well, providing essential food for the country and animals; 3) the roads are no longer dusty; 4) it provides a new source of amusement for children who play in the puddles.
Negative aspects of the rain: 1) it wakes me up most nights as it falls on the corrugated iron roof; 2) The roads are muddy and often impassable, leading to relative isolation; 3) the power lines fall down, leaving us in darkness and without a fridge; 4) all clothes remain damp after washing.
I guess that on balance, the lifeline that the rain provides for many outweighs the inconvenience it causes.
Once the rain had settled, after getting various bits of paper signed and stamped by health officials, the hospital staff made a big bonfire to burn all of the expired drugs. The task was considerable as the hospital get many drugs donated from the government – only one catch though; they have just 3 months of use before expiring, which means their disposal becomes a task for the hospital rather than the government. Not such a generous gesture after all.
Having heard that there was a sick baby on the ward, I spent the morning in the hospital. The 2-day old baby had been fitting on and off over the past 36 hours, having presumably been pretty hypoxic during the delivery. He also had pretty rapid breathing and a high temperature, which suggests meconium aspiration. He had been started on the usual 2 antibiotics available here and had received one dose of phenobarbitone 36 hours ago. Despite being directed into his eye rather than his nose he was on around 30-40% oxygen, delivered through an oxygen concentrating machine (oxygen cylinders are too expensive to get refilled and have to come from Addis). Since he was still fitting, I asked whether he could have some more phenobarbitone and perhaps some phenytoin as these drugs are generally available here. So we stood there watching the baby continue to fit whilst the relatives went to get the prescription of drugs. Drugs have to be collected form the pharmacy on the next floor, where the relatives will need to queue and pay for them. After an hour, the relatives returned with exasperated expressions explaining that the drugs were not available anywhere in Gimbie. One of the nurses asked if we had any ‘in your house’ and so I had to explain that although it sometimes appeared like we ran a pharmacy – or indeed an entire hospital supplies unit - anti-convulsion medicines wasn’t something we ran to. Eventually, we managed to find two tablets on the male ward, which I then had to take home to crush and mix into a solution. No pestle and mortar sitting in any drug cupboard here. Actually, no drug cupboard here.
After an hour or so, the baby looked a bit better and the convulsions lessened. He’s still a pretty sick baby but perhaps he has a chance……
I have just looked outside our veranda to find an enormous hole just inches away from the house. It seems that the old cesspit used to be here and the heavy rain has shifted the corrugated iron covering, leaving the earth on top to cave in. I am told that someone will come to fill the hole and rather hope that this will happen before the veranda – and house – slides into the crater.