My Week: Nigel Young sees clinics and dust in landlocked Chad

The head of the international response team at Merlin recounts his week

Nigel Young
Nigel Young

Monday: It's a big week for Merlin's response team. After three months of leg-work in London and Chad, we are about to hand over to the regional management team there. I am flying from Heathrow to N'Djamena, the capital city of Chad, to check all is well before the handover. To make the most of my trip, I am travelling via Amman and Addis Ababa, so I can catch up with the team in Ethiopia.

Tuesday: I fly from Addis Ababa to N'Djamena, where I am pleasantly surprised to find the visa arrangements go like clockwork. I travel to the office to say hello to the team, who have been working in the punishing 40C heat without any air conditioning. Then it is off to a UN meeting on the Consolidated Appeals Process, used by aid organisations to plan and implement their activities. This is all conducted in French, but I pick up roughly half of what is said.

Wednesday: My first day in the field is a visit to Massakory, a three-hour drive from N'Djamena, where I meet the governor of the province. I look over a couple of clinics and the field hospital, where Merlin is setting up a stabilisation centre to treat malnourished children in cooperation with the Ministry of Health. Everything is pretty much on track after the painfully slow process of getting donors' contracts signed.

Thursday: I visit the great and good in N'Djamena to gain an understanding of their concerns and, I hope, to allay a few of them. One difficulty with finding funding for Chad is that the food crisis is a slow burner. There is no one trigger event, so it is hard to get media attention that is unrelated to the jubilee, Euro 2012 or the Olympics.

Friday: The idea is to be on the plane for the 18-hour flight home, but there is a dust storm at the airport and the flight is delayed. Chad is different from many of the countries I have visited. On the surface there is visible wealth, but underneath that gloss the poverty is severe. We have been a bit slower than we would have liked and have lost two or three weeks navigating the bureaucracy, but considering this is our first time here we have done well.

Merlin is a charity that provides medical relief in the aftermath of disasters.

Nigel Young is head of the international response team at Merlin

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