Let There Be Light

Monday, December 5

Juma greeted me with enthusiasm and thanks for the food supplies at breakfast. He wants a photograph of me with the TB patients. What can a bag of beans and rice, a little salt and sugar do? It will keep people alive so they can benefit from the medications for their TB and Leprosy.

Breakfast at the clinic is even more sparse than it’s been on previous visits due to the exhaustion of food supplies. There used to be two or three thermoses on the counter—one with milk, one with hot water, but they have only a single thermos now. There are no morning biscuits.

Occasionally someone remarks to me that our country has hardships and our efforts should be concentrated at home. But if you could see what I have seen, you would understand that the situations are not comparable. We have poor and sick people in the US, but it’s uncommon for us to see people stricken with TB, leprosy, malaria, and other treatable or eradicated diseases, and one in five small children aren’t dying of malnutrition and other illnesses prior to age five. The JDF Lost Boys Clinic here in Duk performs minor miracles daily, caring for up to 100 patients a day, some of whom walk up to 100 miles for care. Medication alone isn’t enough to help them, so the clinic provides basic food to many patients.

Today Reuben, a 19-year-old young man from Patuenoi, walked to Duk Payuel for medication with a fever. He has been looking over my shoulder as I type this in the clinic office. I asked him how large Patuenoi is compared to Duk. He told me that Patuenoi is a village and that Duk Payuel is a town. Moses had also told me that he was surprised by how large Duk was—that it was not a village, but a town. It still looks like a village to me. Duk has a population of about 3000 people spread out a great distance across pockets of high ground, as the lowlands flood during the rainy season. There about 500 of these households, though the population is fluid, people coming and going between villages seasonally and with their cattle. Manyok and Dau tell me that Duk is only a village, but because of the clinic and IRD compound, (and our developing program and site) it looks like a town to many from smaller communities.

My trip to the site today was rewarded by the discovery of light in the tukuls. Long single-tube fluorescent lights are installed in the large tukuls, and smaller energy-saving bulbs in the small ones. Though so far the power is only turned on to the tukul where the crew is sleeping, it was wonderful to see the light.

The she-goat was slaughtered at the clinic this morning—fortunately out of my eyesight–and roasted for lunch. Any kind of meat is a real treat at the clinic, and goat meat is prized by Sudanese. The staff is always pressing me to eat more, but I tried to satisfy them by gnawing the fibrous meat off one bone while chewing with care to avoid bone slivers—a given when the meat is butchered with a hatchet.

Some of our ASAH girls came by in the afternoon as we were preparing the pineapple I brought from Nairobi, so we shared it with them and the clinic staff. None had tasted pineapple before, but more shocking to them was that it was straight from the refrigerator. They could hardly manage to chew as they had never had cold food in their lives.

After dinner one of the cooks lit the enormous trash pile. The resulting bonfire was a treat for us all, the night cool without wind. From my bed in the tent—I’m close enough that it could have presented a problem if it were windy—I enjoyed the crackling of the fire, the flames still burning bright as I went to sleep.

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