This is said to be the hottest place in the world, and the end of May symbolizes the beginning of the hot period.
I cannot believe that anything will get hotter than what it already is … I have never been so hot in my life – with temperatures easily reaching 40 degrees Celsius by 9 a.m.
And I am able to retreat to my air conditioned room for the afternoon, while the country rests.
Others do not have that luxury.
I have spent the last few days working with local community health workers to do nutritional surveys of the slums in order to get a better idea of the malnutrition rates here. It is absolutely incredible how people live – and so often without question, as this option is better than others.
The survey consists of going ‘door to door’ to find all children between the ages of six months to five years, and taking the middle upper arm circumference of those children in order to determine their level of malnutrition.
Those that fit the parameters are referred to the nearest ambulatory malnutrition program, or referred directly to the hospital, such as one infant we found today who was 16 months and couldn’t have weighed more than four kilograms.
‘Door to door’ is an ironic term as doors are not so prominent in the slums. The living quarters are literally constructed of cardboard and the metal springs from mattresses.
I asked where people go to the bathroom, and was shown a lavatory where one can go to the bathroom for 50 cents. As most people don’t have $1 to spend in a week, the lavatories are obviously for show and not for use.
One particular slum sector houses 15,000 people and is set upon an old garbage dump. The smells emanating from the living quarters in the 40-degree heat made it apparent as to where the actual lavatories are … and as the summer approaches I can only imagine the smells and bacteria that fester in a place built on a garbage dump, and without proper sanitation.
It truly seems that these people have been forgotten by the world, and walking through the area it is incredibly hard to understand how I had the incredible fortune not to be born in a war-torn country like Somalia, or a famine ridden country like Ethiopia, where living conditions are so horrendous that this is the better option.
After finishing one of the walks in the community, I asked one of the volunteers that accompanied me if she sees very much malaria in the area – and she shook her head as though I knew nothing.
“No Trish,” she said. “Our area here is very clean. You only find malaria in dirty areas.”
I asked one of the incredible volunteers at a health centre what she does in the afternoon, as the health centre is closed in the afternoons.
She stated she does what all Djiboutians do – she eats, she prays, she rests. After she eats, she prays for the next meal to come, and then she rests as it is too hot to do anything else, she said.
It is a matter of religion and devotion, but also a matter of poverty and disparity.
Tricia Newport is a Whitehorse nurse who is working for Medecins