quarta-feira, 27 de janeiro de 2010

Zone Rouge (Red Zone) - part 2

Continuing …..

There I was inside the car, living a dream....with a mixure of fear and excitement for crossing some borders that not many people cross.... Phillipe made me smile and relax, but looking outside the window million things crossed my mind ! The beginning of that second part of the trip was through a very thick jungle, where you can easily understand how difficult it is to control a war there.... It was wet and muddy the ground like always, and many times we couldn't see anything besides big, green leafs that were moving away while we advance …. The jungle was like a natural barrier for the zone after where the rebels were....For many Kms we couldn't see anybody....witch was a very strange and empty feeling.....There were many tiny rivers that sometimes we had problems to go through even with this huge 4x4 …. so we had to leave the car in order to improvise a pile of rocks and trees so the car could carry on ...It was again weird, to be outside the car and look around knowing that for sure there were many conflicts in between those trees all around....I could feel the war.....just by knowing the stories....of what happened in the last 15 years....

After a long while and the jungle was a bit more opened to the sky, and we started to see very few people walking on the side of this “road”....Its hard to call it a road as the tracks were covered by long grass, because it was so rare for a car to pass there …. This people where already the “others”.... the “rebels” …. they are not worst , they are not more guilty for the war....they were just fighting for what they believed in …. and not trying to get political if you understand their motivation probably you would conclude as I did that maybe the “bad” guys....are the Congolese army that are helped by the UN and the international community ...but who are responsible for many more war crimes and atrocities than the so called “rebels”....And most of the people of course are not involved in the conflicts that are just there trying to live their lives, with no where else to go ….Just living in the area and villages where the “enemy” was living!

Most of the people all around these lost places on Earth, were happy to see us....kids would wave and scream of joy and grown ups would just smile with shinning eyes, for our presence …. But here was different …. Everybody was so amazed and surprised of our presence that there was no time for showing a warm welcome..... Even kids that are always honest with their attitudes, so shocked by seeing us, would only freeze and stare, like their body could not move as a reaction of these site of white people in cars ….apparently to help them....

I will never forget the look on these people´s faces..... What I could read in their eyes was, before the natural “Thank you for being here” ….their eyes were asking us:
“ What are you doing here?”
“Why are you here?”
“Don't you know that there is a war here?”
That was the first reaction that I could read from their look....and after a while I started to read hope on their look :
“There are some people that didn't forget about us!”
“Maybe not everybody forgot that we exist!”
You are probably thinking that I was taking to many conclusions of some eye contacts ….But you cant imagine how intense it was the way that they looked at us.... Surprise and Hope ! I don't feel special, but in those moments I really felt special by causing these strong emotions on these unfortunate people.....whose feelings were so strong that you don't need to talk to them to listen to what there are saying ….

We passed by some empty villages ….. It was one of the saddest feelings I ever had in my life ! To see a whole village with nice huts completely abandoned where the grass was growing all over the place …. Everybody was scared being so close to No Man´s Land, so they left that village ….and somebody´s work, somebody´s home, somebody´s life was just left behind running away from the war....

The trip continues, my driver who was one of the best drivers and that had been there couple of times before in the past, stop the car in front of some guys with Kalashnikovs, and after talking for a while in Swahili gave them few packs of cigarettes.....”Doctor, this is one of the Generals of APCLS ((Alliance des Patriotes pour un Congo Libre et Souverain), an armed group who wants to give the richness of Congo to the Congolese)....and we have to give them something! We never know what can happen one day!” …. I could understand that very easy ….one never knows when can be caught in the middle of the war, and you better have some friends....

It was not easy for MSF to be able to go to that area, as I herd my boss few days before arguing with one important guy from the Congolese army, accusing us to be helping the enemy ….witch my boss replied with no hesitation.... “ We treat everybody or we treat no one!” ….No matter where MSF can be it is always very important to treat injured from both sides of the conflict, to make sure that everybody understands that we don't take sides....we just care about people ! Not looking at color of the skin, religion or political beliefs....

So finally after 3 hours after we left Masisi (to do no more than 40 Kms), we arrived to Likueti !

Likueti was a small village, but in these places you never know when these groups of huts will end … I could see very high and steep mountains from where I was, the beauty of the landscape couldn't stop to amaze me....but the most impressive was the bridge! The village was right on the river side, something like the villages of the Indians that we see in the movies, and the river was quite wide, with a bridge connecting the two sides....but this bridge that was easily 50 mts long was built by men, and no machines, made of ropes and wood, it felt like I was living in an Indiana Jones movie ...

We stop the car....just in front of the village, we leave the car and many people start to surround us, its never nice to see many men with Kalashnikovs....but I felt safe, they seemed friendly to us....Phillipe started talking with the leader who was a Colonel of APCLS.... and then introduces him to me ! He shows us the first reason why we came all the way there....A woman that had 3 twins 2 days ago, she was very weak , and 3 other women were holding her 3 very very small babies that were doing fine but needed medical care for a fews days to be sure that they would survive ! While I was evaluating my patients ! I herd Phillipe asking the Colonel....
“Witch one of the 3 is yours?”
“None Phillipe!” with a naive smile....
“What!?!? You have 3 twin babies in your village and not any of them is yours !!!” Some laughed a lot from Phillipe´s amazing sense of humor and many more didn't understand French....
And that was Phillipe once again in the middle of this heavy environment making me smile...

I continued to evaluate and treat all my 4 patients and Phillipe went walking to find the 2nd reason why I did the longest 40 kms of my life ….

Young man, with a gun shot wound of the lower thorax, besides the fact that he was part of the small group of the lucky ones that reach the hospital he was not doing so good, and all my attentions went to him ...He was FRDC ( Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda), part of the group (the Hutus) that was responsible for the genocide in Rwanda, that had to fled to Congo after the Tutsi got back to power in Rwanda....and whose cause is one day give Rwanda back to the Hutus that are 90% of the population and that have always been oppressed by the Tutsi.... Its not an easy issue to understand the genocide in Rwanda.....but the fact is that Rwanda, is a very safe and developed country thanks to the huge international help when they felt guilty about what happened in 1994.....and now that is one of the reasons why Eastern Congo is suffering this horrible war for so many years...

In the middle of nowhere....Antibiotics, painkillers, a lot of fluids.....cleaning and assessing the wound, evaluated the thorax and the abdomen …..and put him in the back of the 4x4....where I went! And the woman with the 3 twins went in the other car ….

Before we left Phillipe came to me and told me !
The Coronel was telling me that he has Hemorrhoids, do you have something to give him!”
No, I font have anything, he needs to change his food habits and if it doesn't work, we needs surgery.”
Find some cream to give him”
Phillipe, I don't have!”
You have to give him something, even if it´s just psychological!!! “
Phillipe had no medical knowledge but I guess he knew much better than me what was the placebo effect after being in Africa for so long ….

So I got Sulfadiazine (witch is a cream for burns) and went with it to talk with the Colonel ...after explaining what he should and should not eat, I gave him the cream....The Colonel was very happy and said “Thank you Phillipe you are so so kind”....and once again I was laughing (inside) thanks to Phillipe.... And this important so MSF could continue to reach this population that nobody else could....

Going back ….its like exiting a prison ….we go out ….they stay!.... with no escape ! Horrible feeling …I cant stop myself from looking back, where you have all these innocent people (most of them)...I can feel that they try to tell me:
Please come back!”
Don't forget about us!” …..This is my way of keeping my promise that I will NOT forget about you! And I trying to make the world to know what is going on in this forgotten places....

If the way there was bumpy...the way back was even worst, for 3 hours I had to go in the back of the car making sure that the wounded wouldn't jump to much in the most difficult obstacles, controlling the infusions and holding myself....it was not a pleasant ride ….maybe the good think was that I had not so much time to think !

Just passing by Nyabiomdo again..... their it was !!! For the 3rd time since I arrived Congo ! In the middle of the Red Zone of one of the worst wars of modern times..... Somebody with a t-shirt of FC Porto!!! I cant stop myself of putting my head out of the window and screamed “PPPOOOORRTTTOOOOOOOO!!” I think that he didn't understand and he had no idea where that t-shirt was from but it sure made me smile again …. Do I have the right to feel happy after all the misery that I just saw.... I really don't know, but the fact is that this small stupid things make me feel alive and of course.... Will I be proud to tell this story when I get back home to my friends that share the same love for FC Porto as I do ?!?

The 3 twins were a reason of joy for everybody in the hospital.....In Africa, its not common for 3 to survive, but they did !

The Rwandese Hutu went home with the bullet inside him after a few days, because we don't know where the bullet was (no X-ray)....and he was doing fine....so there is no reason to go and search for the lost bullet....He escaped the hospital, when we told him that he could go, so the army wouldn't find him ….

So this could be a story with an happy ending ….but its not ….at least for me...

The day after I went to the Red Zone, there were huge conflicts in many of the villages that I passed by, including helicopters attack.... It breaks my heart to know that many of the ones that I saw were shot at, running from war....and with their houses bombed.... Who knows how many died!?!? …. It would have been “just another” horrible attack in “just another” place that nobody knows..... But this time I was there …. and I saw their faces.....and it hurts me so much !!!.....that sometimes when I think about it its hard to breath.....

3 comentários:

  1. Este comentário foi removido pelo autor.

  2. It is really brave what you are doing Gusto.
    It must be really hard to put into words all these experiences, and to go trough them all over again in your head. But I am sure you are and will more and more accomplish what you proposed to do: everytime you write we are here to read, and "we" are many, and will be more and more.
    Um grande beijinh

  3. Thank you for finding the words to tell us all this storys in such a way that makes us feel like we were there too. So... right now, after i read and felt this one... I just can't find more words to comment..... please continue your mission and keep writting.
    God bless you Gu.


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