It is Saturday morning, and outside my bedroom the little yellow birds are chirping away from somewhere within the leaves of the avocado tree. The neighbours are busy preparing tea over their fire.
It is market day here in Dingila, which means the one day that the market is full of produce – mostly bananas, manioc and plantains.
The corpses of termites who have lost their wings in the night cover my mosquito net and bedroom floor. I have grown accustomed to life here, but next week, when I land back in Canada, little Dingila will seem years away.
Six months of my life have been spent here, and although I’m leaving, Dingila’s problems won’t disappear.
The MONUC, which is the UN’s mission in the Congo, is scheduled to pull out of Dingila next week. The team of about 50 Senegalese soldiers have been in Dingila for the last six months as a means to protect the population from the Lord’s Resistance Army.
The simple presence of the MONUC has acted as a deterrent from rebel attacks. Understandably, the population is filled with worry, especially considering the reports of attacks and kidnappings not far from us.
The MONUC will be replaced by the Congolese army, the FARDC – who are better known for their ability to rape, pillage and drink, than their ability to protect. While I am busy pondering all of the options and choices for my future, the options and choices for people here are over-ruled by one priority – to protect one’s family the best that one can.
One day Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) will leave here – not once the need is gone, but once the displaced people are settled and have lives equal to the locals of this village. The needs will not go away. The needs for access to basic human rights, for peace and for liberation from fear will continue.
The problems here are complex, multi-faceted and include a faulty and corrupt health-care system. MSF’s mandate does not include replacing the health-care system of a government. Instead, its volunteers advocate for the needs and rights of the population, and act as witnesses to share the stories of the people they work with.
I was saying goodbye to a nurse that I have worked closely with. She is one of the most committed nurses I have ever met. The day that we received suppositories, which treat severe malaria she broke into tears and cried, “And now we can really start to save lives.”
While I was busy reflecting on the future of this little village, I asked what she thinks tomorrow will bring. She said, “Here we don’t even know that tomorrow will come. If we are going to make change, we have to work with today.”
And so for the few days I have left here, I will work to change today – because it’s all we have.
Newport will share her experiences this Friday, during a fundraiser for the Fair Aid Society in Whitehorse.
The event will also feature an African dinner and silent auction. It’s being held at the CYO hall of
Sacred Heart Cathedral at 406 Steele Street.
Tickets are $30, available at the
Alpine Bakery and the Medicine Chest pharmacy.
Tricia Newport is a nurse who lives in Whitehorse. This is the sixth in a series of dispatches from Congo.