Sleeping Sickness in the Congo

arrival_at_zobiaAs I get off the plane in Zobia, the other passengers and I are greeted by dozens of villagers. Our drive from the airstrip to the MSF (Doctors Without Borders) compound takes about 45 minutes, most of it through Congolese jungle. At times the bamboo and other trees almost form a tunnel over the road.

clinic_staffHere at Zobia, MSF operates a clinic to combat sleeping sickness. Among its symptoms are fever, disruption of the sleep cycle, paralysis, neurological problems, and death. It’s a terrible illness, and the work MSF is doing here is saving lives. Running a base like this in the middle of nowhere involves a lot of logistical challenges. MSF has been using a system for basic email and phone calls over satellite to communicate with the outside world. The VSAT dish I will install here will give them broadband Internet access—right here in the jungle.

Unfortunately, we discover that some of the pieces to the dish did not get shipped to Zobia. I’ll be stuck here for four days. Worse still, MSF will have to wait a couple more weeks for their VSAT. Not wanting to make the trip a total loss, I decide to walk down to the clinic to get a firsthand glimpse of the work they’re doing.

patients_in_clinicAt the clinic there are several patients. They happily agree to let me photograph them. They’ll each spend about a week and a half here in one of the small common area treatment rooms. However, they’ll eventually return home well, thanks to the work MSF is doing here.

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