PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL
Reports #1 - 4
Reports #12 - 15
Report #16 - (February 15, 2004)
Report #17 - (February 17, 2004)
Report #18 - (February 17, 2004)
Report #19 - (February 18, 2004)
Report #20 - (February 19, 2004)
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #16
BYLINE: Kit Cone
DATE: Sunday, February 15, 2004
SOURCE: Phriends of Phebe Distribution Service
Sunday, February 15
We have only been without communication for a few days, but it
seems that there is a lot to report.
We sent a 50-kilo bag of rice to LURD as a [dash] to keep them
from attacking our houses. The rice was given to LURD by the
Bangladesh troops, acting as the "middlemen." We have heard that they received it and enjoyed it, but we don't know what the long-range effect might be. Hospital employees' houses have been
entered and their possessions taken, and a box of supplies was
stolen out of the nursing warehouse of the hospital, but thus far
there has not been any direct attack on the missionaries.
Today we talked with the Pakistani army major who is one of the
international observers of the peacekeeping effort. There had been an uprising on wednesday night, around midnight, and we had heard the yelling and fighting, which seemed to be at the end of the airstrip near the road. The major said that there had been a
confrontation there, and the unmil troops from bangladesh had done well in summoning assistance from gbarnga, and using their big white armored personnel carrier (which lives right across the road from our house) to break up the battle. There was shooting, and one man's hand was cut off, but we did not hear of any deaths. The Pakistani major said that, given that UNMIL is very badly outnumbered by LURD, they had managed the situation
satisfactorily. They really can't undertake a real confrontation
with all of LURD, but they had managed to localize the incident to
the hospital area, where the Pakistani major said there are known
to be more than 100 fully armed LURD troops.
There can be mixed responses to such incidents: the LURD can feel
that the Bangladeshi troops came with a show of strength and put
down the riot, so they'd better behave better, or they can feel
that even though the LURD came they survived the battle well and
it was no big deal so they're ready for a bigger battle.
On Saturday morning a supply truck came with diamond wire,
gasoline for the generator, plywood and rice. The rice is piled on
the porch of our house, and is a real target, so we're really
pushing John Padmore, who is in charge of the labor crew, to
distribute it as soon as possible. Part of the problem is that the
workers do not want to have any large amount of rice in their
houses, because then they will be targets for LURD.
My notebook is waterlogged with sweat, so it's hard to read some
of the pages.
Bill, architect Poul, and Dr. John came this morning from Monrovia. Dr. Sandoe is with them in his own vehicle. Poul is an amazing architect. After his very short visit last week, he has prepared a plan of what he feels should be done to make Phebe a
functional African hospital.
The Danish government, working through a Lutheran charity, is
considering a grant of $170,000 to Phebe to get the place
functioning. Poul's plan is to put that money toward refurbishing
the "new" wing of the hospital, which is at the back of the
building. Most recently it has been the base for the obstetrics
and maternity functions. Poul is proposing that this be used as
general ward space, to supplement the use of the eye clinic and
outpatient department, which are in different buildings across the
road from the main hospital building, and where the operating
rooms and emergency room will be located in the first phase of the
return to Phebe.
After that gets going, which Poul believes would not be a huge
project, then the second phase would be the reconstruction of the
remainder of the hospital building. This would start with the
removal of a row of rooms in the present hospital, to allow more
light and ventilation to reach the areas where patients are
housed. The row of rooms to be razed includes low-priority
functions such as washroom, mimeograph room, rubber-glove washing room, and things like that. It also has the pharmacy, which would have to be relocated.
With that row of rooms removed, there would be a wide veranda
across the front of the hospital which would give some light and
air. Poul feels that the operating rooms should remain, because
they are adequate and are well suited to African medicine.
We have met several times with Poul, had some tours, and discussed how to bring his ideas to fruition. The two basic scenarios are to hire a contractor to make the changes, or to have a volunteer missionary clerk of the works and hire local labor to do the work. With that in mind, we want to ask all the recipients of this letter to think about people, organizations or professional groups that might be a source for that kind of a volunteer. Does anybody have a connection into the Mennonite Central Committee? They have a really magnificent corps of volunteers who are familiar with this kind of work. We need a one-year volunteer with managerial experience in the construction industry, familiar with poured concrete construction, plumbing, electricity, roofing, framing, etc.
Poul leaves on Wednesday to return to the U.S. with his ideas and
get them onto paper. Then he has to present the plan to the Danish authorities around March 1. He anticipates that the grant will be approved, although it is not certain. Construction could then
begin in May or June on the "new wing" at the back of the hospital. If money can be found for the main reconstruction project, the first phase would flow right into the second. Assuming that funding could be found -- which is a big assumption -- the whole thing could be completed within a year.
This afternoon a small group of us went to look at Cuttington
College, right across the road from the hospital. This may have
been foolhardy, but we got away with it. We were met by several
LURD property managers, one of whom was drunk out of his mind. A Mandingo man came along and instantly saw our problem, and managed to draw the LURD people elsewhere; God does send angels in the strangest forms!
The damage at Cuttington is the same as at Phebe, but the campus is larger with more buildings, so it is more difficult to take it
all in. The science building, which had been a showplace, is totally demolished. The roof is gone, and everything is gone from the rooms - - even the built-in science lab desks. Many of the buildings have had the roofs torn off. The chapel is not badly damaged, and can be restored. I had talked with Dr. Tokpa, the new president of Cuttington, in Monrovia, and he was planning to open in September. I can't imagine that this is even a remote possibility. It will take a huge amount of money and a great deal of labor over a period of time to restore the place to any degree of function.
Bill and his computer will be here tomorrow until around noon, so
it is possible that we will be able to do more e-mail in the morning.
Nothing else strange. Kit
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #17
BYLINE: Bill Martin
DATE: Tuesday, February 17, 2004 05:23:56 GMT, Monrovia
SOURCE: Phriends of Phebe Distribution Service
The USS team is will start a second project today for the LCL at
Totota. The USS group is split into three teams for the next week
and a half. Some individuals assignments and locations may change daily because available of supplies and materials.
Monrovia working from the LCL Guest House:
Carrie Van Epps
Totota and staying on the LCL school campus in Totota
Phebe Hospital compound in Bong County
Lorreva "Butch" Foster
see ya, bill
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #18
BYLINE: Kit Cone
DATE: Tuesday, February 17, 2004
SOURCE: Phriends of Phebe Distribution Service
Bill and his computer and satellite telephone are here until noon,
then they depart for Monrovia.
At 9 this morning, Mobile 2 (a Ford Ranger pickup with a Diesel
engine and four-door cab) left for Totota, where Gary and Paul are
undertaking a huge project for the Lutheran Church in Liberia. They will remove the roof structure on a big school building, make
new trusses from locally-available African wood, and then make the new roof. They expect to work on it for two weeks, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it be three.
As we loaded the pickup truck, Gary and Paul kept bringing out more and more stuff. They have to provide everything, from drinking water to toilet paper, food to mattresses, and every kind
of tool that they may need. Even though they will only be about
half an hour away, they will have no way to communicate with us if
they need something, and of course they can't just go to the nearest Home Depot to get things.
Dr. Elaine also left on the same pickup. She is going to Monrovia for a couple of days. She has been a wonderful asset; her principal achievement has been the installation of toilets to replace some of those stolen during the looting. She was also up inside the water tank plugging bullet holes with carved wooden plugs. But her principal purpose in coming here was to shepherd and install some anesthesia equipment that she had sent in a container, and so far there has been no way to do that. She is concerned that the equipment, which is delicate and very expensive, will be damaged in transit or by inept attempts to assemble it and get it running. We have suggested to her that she needs to come back when it is possible to set up the equipment. She might do that.
Although Mobile 2 was only going to Totota, Dr. Elaine is to meet
up with an LCL truck there, which will carry her to Monrovia.
Because of the high cost of Diesel fuel -- all trucks and most cars here are Diesel -- the arranging of transportation schedule is very critical. This is one of Bill's strong skills. No truck ever goes without a full load; there is no "spur of the moment" running out for a jar of peanut butter.
Mobile 2 is due back around 11, and then will load up for the next
run, which is an express trip to Monrovia. Bill will go on that truck, with this computer. Dr. Payne will also go back to the Lutheran Guest House, and Nurse Carrie is going to Monrovia for a few days also. Poul the architect, who has been meeting non-stop with people who have a lot of knowledge of the hospital, will be returning to Monrovia and will leave for the U.S. on the Wednesday plane. With only one flight a week, everything revolves around the
Wednesday evening plane.
So after feeding 14 people at each meal, suddenly we are losing Gary and Paul to Totota; and Elaine, Carrie, Dr. John and Bill to
Monrovia. So we will have only eight at the table! Butch Foster,
the resident chef, will have life a little easier. She comes up with the most amazing meals every day! Last night we had mashed
potatoes, ham, mixed veggies, and fresh pineapple. This morning
the left-over mashed potatoes were made into potato pancakes. We certainly are not losing any weight on this assignment! Usually I come back ten pounds lighter, but that isn't happening this time!
In addition to keeping us well fed, Butch has been cleaning the
buildings that will be used for the first-stage return of the hospital, and helping her husband, Jim, with the heavy welding. Starting today, Butch is also the new cool crib manager and casual employment manager! She is one of the best additions to our USSELCA crew!
Today's big activity, aside from the truck transportation and the meetings with Poul, is a rice distribution. We got ten bags of
rice (with funds donated through Grace Church) and right now it is
being distributed to the many people who volunteered to help clean up the grounds. They are lined up from here to China, but the process is very orderly and calm: they have all done this before, and they know that each person will get a fair share. So there is very little hollering and pushing, and the rice is being measured out scoop by scoop into the containers that the recipients bring to the distribution. I have made some pictures.
One piece of good news is the return of Joseph Kollie this morning. He had gone to Monrovia because of the death of a relative there. Joseph is the "clerk of the works." He is in charge of handing out tools and equipment, assigning laborers to various projects, and dealing with such crises as the lack of cement or nails. He has worked closely with Gary for several years, and he knows how to be a quality control inspector to point out to workers when their results are not up to his expectations. So having him back, especially when Gary has left, is a great blessing.
We have determined that we need to run the little generator
another hour each day. We have been running it for construction
tools in the morning, and for Richard to run the Lebanese washing
machine. But that's not long enough to get the fridge cooled down.
So we are trying to run it for two hours in the morning, and then
it gets turned on at about 6:30 and runs until 10:30 at night. In
between, in the afternoon, the battery pack carries the fridge. In
the evening hours, in addition to the fridge, we are also running
lights, fans, and battery chargers for portable tools -- as well as the big batteries for the fridge.
This morning Dr. Sandoe went to have "a discussion" with the UNMIL leadership and the heads of LURD who own this area. He said that we, the missionaries, are looking to him for protection from warfare, but that he is not able to provide that kind of protection. So he is turning to LURD (the predominant rebel military faction) and UNMIL (the United Nations forces from Bangladesh) to proTuesday, June 1, 2004 16:26ay Bill took them another one to reinforce the point. Since LURD outnumbers the UNMIL forcTuesday, June 1, 2004 16:26nated area.
Now it is later and we are getting ready to transmit.
The rice distribution got a bit rowdy, as usually happens in these
things, when some people thought that others got a tablespoon more rice than they got. The mini-riot is ongoing, but I suppose that eventually it will quiet down again.
A large group of men is sitting down the road in the shade. We were a bit fearful for our safety, but it turns out that they are
the men from three villages a short distance from here. They are
coming to meet with the Bangladesh troops because their villages
are being ransacked every evening by LURD and they want/need
protection for the villages. So they have been sitting under the trees for several hours waiting to meet with the captain.
Every day palaver. Some days, two palavers.
Nothing else strange on my side. Kit
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #19
BYLINE: Bill Martin
DATE: Wednesday, February 18,2004 05:02:GMT, Monrovia, Liberia
SOURCE: Phriends of Phebe Distribution Service
Monday, February 16, 2004, Paul Shaner was in Monrovia with Gary Winters shopping for supplies for Totota and became ill during the night and was hospitalized at St. Joseph's Catholic Hospital in
Monrovia. His diagnosis is malaria and he should be discharged
Wednesday afternoon. As of 23:00 Tuesday, he was much improved especially after receiving telephone calls from his family. His care is being monitored by Dr. G, Dr. Payne, Dr. Reigle, and Nurse Carrie and other USS team member is staying with him in the hospital as a caregiver.
Poul Bertelsen, the architect, will meet with the Phebe Board members at 12:30 today as the second part of his site briefing.
He then leaves on the SN Brussels flight at 18:00 for the USA and
will file his report and recommendations to DEM, Denmark for a
$170,000 USD initial renovation project of the OB and Peds wing
of the hospital which will accommodate up to 75 beds.
The Tuesday's daily reports (12 noon and 20:00) from the USS team at Phebe are good and they said they are continuing to prepare the compound for the return of the Phebe health care providers and staff to the E-campus (mini campus: CHD, OPD, Eye Center, Brown Hall and nurses' camp) within the next few weeks.
More news soon.
see ya, bill
PHEBE HOSPITAL JOURNAL: Report #20
BYLINE: Kit Cone
DATE: Thursday, February 19, 2004
SOURCE: Phriends of Phebe Distribution Service
We have not had e-mail capability all week, and my sweaty little
notebook is bursting with items.
Bill [Martin] has announced his resignation for personal reasons,
and will be leaving next Wednesday. He does not plan to return. So we have lost our maintenance engineer and our hospital administrator in the space of a few weeks. Not good.
There are some real security questions concerning what will happen after March 3. On that date most of the USSELCA crew will return to the U.S. Dr. Riegle, who returned today from Monrovia, will be leaving on Tuesday (on a plane to Accra, which is why it's not on a Wednesday). Bill will go on Wednesday. On March 3, Butch and Jim Foster, Paul Shaner, Ruth Koble, and I will be leaving. Carl will stay another week, and Gary a few more weeks. So all that will be left after that will be Nurse Carrie, Nurse Carol, and Mike the water engineer. Dr. Payne has started working at St. Joseph's Hospital in Monrovia, because there is no medical work here and no place for him to stay at Salala. There is widespread concern that we need more people here to keep the place secure, but with the shaky situation it will not be easy to recruit more volunteers. We are expecting that it will take many months to find and put in place a new maintenance engineer and a new administrator. By that time it is likely that Mike and the two nurses will have left. Without a missionary presence, it is entirely likely -- I would even say it is a foregone conclusion -- that everything we have done in the past few weeks and all the supplies and equipment we have brought in will be looted. Some of the NGOs that will be renting buildings on the hospital grounds have come around to explore, but none are announcing any plans to move in at this time because of the security situation. We are watching anxiously for the announcement of disarmament, but that will evidently be May at the earliest. This is a really tough situation to be in.
There is a lot of current security news around here, none of it very good. Here are some things from my notebook, in chronological
order most of the time.
On Monday, MODEL, the smaller rebel group, took over a big rubber plantation in Sinoe County; UNMIL was powerless to do anything about it, because they are so hopelessly outnumbered.
On Monday evening there was no shooting! It was so amazing that we talked about it on Tuesday morning! That's the sort of thing that goes in my notebook.
On Tuesday Paul was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Monrovia
with malaria. He had gone with Gary to work on rebuilding a school
roof at the town of Totota. He was not bad off, and was discharged today. He is at the Lutheran Guest House in Monrovia for the moment, deciding whether to come back here for the last few days or to stay in Monrovia. Another case of Lariam resistance. On a related note, I have been unable to get any Paludrine, which is what I use for malaria prophylaxis. I don't want to be the next
one with malaria. Do any readers have a way to get a four- week
supply of Paludrine (two tablets per day) and send it to me by DHL
Express or with a traveler? It is not sold in the U.S. at all. It is sold over the counter in Ivory Coast, but I'm reluctant to spend $450 to go to Abidjan to buy some pills that cost about $15. Paludrine is sold in Europe and very widely used by Europeans for malaria prophylaxis.
On Monday night there was an "incident" involving the rebel forces
that surround the hospital. A man who had gone to the U.N. soldiers to protest the nighly looting of his village had his arm broken by the rebels in retribution. The next day the UNMIL captain, Capt. Reza, who is an excellent professional soldier,
called the local LURD leader, Leopard, to chew him out. Capt. Reza
said that Leopard does not have control of his own men, and
reminded Leopard that he had promised Reza there would be no more incidents. Leopard said that he would discipline the man who had broken the victim's arm. Next day nothing had happened, so Reza called Leopard in again. Leopard said that he would not be able to discipline the man until he received a 50 kilo bag of rice. That's where the story has ended for now. LURD is in the driver's seat, and can demand whatever they want. This is not a good situation.
There are LOTS of egrets here, but no chickens, dogs, cats, sheep,
or even people. All the animals, domestic and wild, have been eaten during the war. Our two houses are still the only two that are occupied on the whole 50-house compound.
On Wednesday morning head nurse Mary Tiah and head maintenance man Joe Kollie came here from the field hospital at Salala. There truck was overflowing with people from the field hospital who wanted to go see their houses at Phebe. Joe had no idea how a 7- foot long well pump which we found in his house could have gotten there. He also reported that the transformer for the eye clinic, which will be the basis for the revived hospital in its earliest stages, had been in place as recently as late January when he was last here. It is, of course, stolen now. "They" broke the back of the little masonry house where it had been housed.
Similarly, the well pump that had been stuck near the surface in
Well #2 is gone. It had been there in January. Mike and I went
there this (Thursday) morning and found that the pump is not down in the 200-foot deep well, so we can only conclude that it was stolen. The degree to which stealing is ingrained in local life is
hard for most Americans to handle. Doors have to be locked all the
time, and we don't dare leave any house unoccupied. Every tool,
box of nails, ladder, can of paint, etc., has to be checked out by
the Liberian workers in the morning and checked back in in the
evening. Right now Butch is being the tool manager - - as though
she didn't have anything else to do! Now that the word is out that
the Americans are here, and have brought every kind of incredible
luxury with them, we are beset by people scoping the house for
things to steal, by beggars, by people pleading for bread, by children -- "former" fighters -- demanding money or food, by LURD
fighters making a show of their presence by streaming past on
their stolen bicycles, by people in need of medical treatment, and
by an endless parade of crises.
On Wednesday the ancient painter finished work on the front doors of our house.
Also on Wednesday a truck arrived from Lutheran World Service. The people on board were coming to see whether anyone has returned to the villages in the area. The LWS people found that the Bangladesh soldiers have taken over their building on the grounds. I had anticipated some yelling, but they were so grateful for the presence of the soldiers on the compound that they never said a word. We put them in "Mrs. Butch's Hotel," a small building near our house which is sort of fixed up and where we lodge strangers. They will be back tonight, and then will return to Monrovia on Friday.
During her visit around the hospital, head nurse Mary Tiah said
that it is not a good time for the staff to return to Suakoko
because the very shaky security situation. She noted that the
missionaries might have some chance because we are from America and the soldiers are watching over us from right across the road. But she felt that returning Liberians would not have any chance of keeping their possessions or of sleeping safely in their houses. She rightly pointed out that if the conditions were safe here, some people would start coming back; not even one has done so.
Things that I miss: Walking around Madison in safety. I never
thought much about it before. I used to be able to walk to Stop
and Shop or to Staples, and the only thought was about the weather and my next appointment. But here if we are going more than a few feet from our houses we tell each other, so that it is known that we are out there somewhere. It is scary being completely surrounded by an active armed enemy. Hot showers. Flushing toilets. Being able to wash my hands whenever I want to. Hearing "good" music. But on the other side, usually I come back from these trips much lighter. This time Mrs. Butch is making such fine food for all of us - - often serving in the teens at the table --
that nobody is losing any weight and most of us are probably
I thought this morning that the fact that nobody is here, and we
cannot stray far from our own buildings, has severely cramped my
plans for the distribution of charitable gifts - - mostly from Grace Church donors. I'll have to discuss this with donors when I get back. With Bill gone there will be no way to distribute funds until my return, and there's no way to know when that might be.
Mike has been doing a lot of assessment on the five hand-pumped
wells from which we draw our water on the hospital compound. All
of them are seriously contaminated with e-coli. And the water truck that brings water for the Bangladesh soldiers is contaminated even worse! So at the request of Capt. Reza, Mike made a very professional report on water quality which will be forwarded to the UNMIL people in Monrovia, along with a request for chemicals or filters to purify the water. The report, in a notebook, had all sorts of reference material enclosed, and was really an excellent piece of work! My little Katadyn filter continues to do an excellent job of keeping us healthy. Expensive, and worth every penny!
Last night we had another "incident" in which the U.N. troops
managed to take a gun away from an armed fighter. But unfortunately the disarmament has been postponed for another month, and will not begin before April 15 at the very earliest; Bill said that the talk at the U.N. in Monrovia is that it will not be until May. Since this is a prerequisite for most of the Liberian hospital staff when they consider returning to Suakoko, it looks as though this hospital won't be functioning for a while yet.
Under Butch's direction we have been moving beds into the former
eye clinic, which had been built but never used when we had to run away last March. We will have something like 50 beds in there, as well as a nice operating room and other facilities. I have been
putting in electric outlets, and today Bill arrived with the new
circuit breaker panel which will replace the one stolen from the
building. So far we have no news of any grants that will pay for a
generator, which would provide power and running water. Bill is
thinking of using hospital funds for this purpose, but grant money
is so tightly controlled that this can be a problem.
Bill has asked me if I would go to Monrovia tomorrow with him to write another application for grant money. I have no use for Monrovia at all, but if that's the assignment I'll go. There probably will not be time to do e-mail in the morning because he wants to get on the road by 9 a.m. (which means 10).
Nothing else strange. Kit
These dispatches are distributed to subscribers to provide "on the ground" accounts of local situations in Liberia . Opinions expressed are not necessarily the opinions of Friends of Liberia or the Liberian Collections Project.
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