Monday, March 30, 2015

Three weeks in Kumala: part 2

I've just spent three days in lock down. That was the best thing that could have happened for me, as I got to do nothing but sleep, read, and rest. Delightful. 

But back to Kumala. For many years I've heard about hand dug wells, I've written reports about hand dug wells, but what I realised is that I'd never seen a well being dug by hand (which is what a hand dug well is, in case you hadn't caught on). It is truly amazing. The two man team would dig over night (it was too hot during the day), and get down a couple of metres each night. This was taken after a few days, and they were already past 6 metres. Super cool.
Another bit of local engineering genius are tippy taps. In order to properly wash your hands you need both of them to rub against each other, so when you step on the stick lying on the ground (which is connected to the lid of the jug) it tips the jug over and water comes out of a hole. Genius!
These were some of the hygienists who work at the holding centre, where patients suspected of having ebola are tested and await their results. Most of the 18 hygienists are students or teachers, and volunteered to take on the job many months ago. Since schools are supposed to re-open in a couple of weeks, we advertised for new hygienists. 78 people applied for jobs, and there will only be 7 spaces. They have a hugely important job, responsible for cleaning all of the areas of the centre with chlorine. This photo was taken after they'd just carried a body to the morgue (the tarpaulin covered structure on the right of the photo). A very ill woman had come to centre and died over night. She didn't have ebola, but every case has to be treated as such. Wearing the full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is incredibly hot (I've not tried it myself), and with the temperature outside being over 35 degrees celcius most days, it was very hard work for them to do.
This is the 'bridge' into Kumala village. I'd wander down every couple of days to check on the progress of the new centre construction, and also to check on the quarantined people. Walking anywhere around the village you'd hear the cries of "Tubabu!!", which means white man. The little kids were always so excited to see any white foreigners, and would follow me around. So so cute.
And on my last day, while I was sad to leave the team I was also very ready to get back to Freetown. I was tired, I was dirty, I was absolutely exhausted. It was really interesting to see Sierra Leone from above, far greener and hillier than the impression Kumala had given me.
We had two stops in the helicopter before reaching Freetown, and as we flew in over Kono, my colleague pointed out the diamond mining going on. Kono is the diamond capital of Sierra Leone and was the setting for the film Blood Diamond.
It seems strange, coming from a big mining country where the infrastructure is so huge, to see how diamonds are mined here. Just a few men here and there in these dirty pools of water. Much like the gold rush days I suppose.

So now I have a couple more days in Freetown, before I head to Bombali district to spend a few weeks there. I'm looking forward to the challenges that await me there.

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