Saturday, October 17, 2015

Ounianga - Desert Lakes

Last week I had the chance to take a small team of Chadian and EU delegates to Bardai, Faya and Ounianga Kebir in the north of Chad. They were there to see what measures are or should be in place to protect and sustain some of the natural treasures and ecosystems which exist in Chad's part of the Sahara. File it under stewardship of the planet if you like but a flight like this comes up very rarely and I made sure to snap some photos of the sites. One of them, a UNESCO world heritage site, was the salt water lakes at Ounianga Kebir...and more incredible in person than the stories of lakes in the middle of the desert that I'd heard since coming to Chad. Feeling very privileged to have laid eyes on this part of creation. To God be the glory.

Flying over the Tibesti - miles and miles of
Grand Canyons that few have ever seen.

Military presence in the north is a given.
These were the 14 guys assigned to guard the plane
over night in Ounianga Kebir.

Desert sunrise over the lakes.

The most striking thing about Ounianga Kebir
is the juxtaposition of so much sand with so much water.
There are 18 lakes in the region in total, although some smaller
ones are covered in vegetation and others are being
slowly filled in by the desert sands. The local
community are hard at work creating sand barriers
to keep the desert from blowing in.

Makes you want to dive right in - although the salt
content felt about 10x that of the ocean.

I couldn't get over the colours

One last look at the lakes on our departure

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Medical Safari - Flying Doctor

Kouno, Southern Chad

I just returned from 4 days of flying in the bush transporting a Chadian doctor between remote villages.
Dr. Antcha Bissa (red shirt below) has been tasked with checking in on the over 50 small health clinics around the country which the national church has set up. Travelling between these clinics is not easy work so MAF teams up with the national church and donates 20 hours of flying per year to get a doctor to some of the more remote centers. Having a doctor visit every few months means people are lined up and consultations continue until well after the sun has set. Part of his job was also to check up on the administration of the clinics - which in most cases needed plenty of attention. If the doc was sleeping before 11:30 pm it was a good day!
Dr. Bissa going over the clinic's books in Mogo.

These clinics might have a local person trained as a nurse who can administer meds and some even have a lab tech who can check for the most common culprits like Malaria, but a visit from a fully trained doctor is unfortunately rare. Chad has a very low doctor to patient ratio - 1 doctor for every 25,000 people - which places it at or near the bottom of the list.
Topping up the oil with cattle looking on
Adding oil with an audience in Tchaguine
Each day Dr. Bissa and I tried to be up and airborne for the next village at around 7:00. He'd start seeing patients mid-morning after greeting the staff, shaking many hands and being offered breakfast (usually rice or pasta with chicken or goat sauce). As the visitors, we were, of course, offered the choice bits - chicken gizzard is actually way more scary as a concept.
Traveling light - we just bring the eye chart and find a place to hang it. (Kouno)
As the pilot, my work wasn't over just because we were safe on the ground. Dr. Bissa had me helping with eye chart tests on everyone before they went in to see him.

Emanuel is working on becoming a nurse. I was helping him run the eye tests in Kouno.