Last week we headed out to the village of Nyantire for CURE’s first mobile clinic here in Niger. We have done different training programs and specialized consultations before, but this was the first time that we did a general consultation. In other words, before we were screening for patients that we could bring back to the hospital and operate on. This time we just told everyone to come.
Guess what? Everyone came.
The whole village showed up, plus people from other villages and even from Torodi and Macalondi, the closest big-ish towns. We tried to put the word out before hand, and even had a spot on the local radio station. I think it worked. Everyone listens to the radio here. Nyantire is not a big village. It is a near the border with Burkina Faso, about an hour’s drive from Niamey. But it has the advantage of being right off the main road. So it is easy to get to and a natural gathering point. Also, it is a mixed (Fulani and Gourmanchema) village, so there were people coming from all over.
We arrived around 10 in the morning, and didn’t leave until the sun went down. Even though we were there all day, and managed to see almost 100 patients, we still weren’t able to see everyone. Some people walked over 30 km. just to come to the clinic. Others had come the night before just to make sure they didn’t miss it. It was really amazing to see how far people will go to be cured. Or even to have some hope of a cure. We brought lots of medicine with us and gave almost all of it out, but it was mostly to treat simple illnesses like malaria or dysentery. We were not equipped to handle some of the more serious problems people had. But we were able to refer some of them to other clinics, and made appointments for some of them to come to the hospital.
We also ran a children’s program for all the kids that were just hanging out with nothing to do. They played different games under a big tree, and it was great to see how excited they were. Someone brought a radio but there were no batteries. We managed to find some, and then the music and dancing started. They danced for hours. We also had quite a large group of people who wanted to be prayed for. Some of them complained of having bad dreams or of being harassed by evil spirits. So we prayed for a lot of people as well.
We certainly learned a lot from this clinic, and will probably make some changes (especially concerning organization and crowd control) in the future. It was kind of crazy at times, but overall it was a great success. For people in Nyantire, and other villages like it, if you are sick, you suffer. That’s it. There are not a lot of options for treatment, so you just have to deal with the pain and hope it goes away. So we were really happy to see that a lot of people suffering from different problems got some relief, and we found a few potential patients for the clubfoot program which is great.