Tent city (i)



Sanka sat with Rami at the top of a hill. The camp sprawled below them, tents in all colors plastered with abbreviations stretched beyond the horizon.

We need a new batch of the tetanus vaccine, at least enough for the new kids and some of the pregnant women.” Rami said.

“What we really need is contraceptives.” Sanka replied, “Can’t believe anyone is having children in this.” Sanka said hand pointed toward the camp.

Maybe they’re trying to repopulate. Get back to the status quo.” Rami said.

They heard the sound of the rotter blades and stood. It came from the North. Ethiopia was the collection base for medical and food aid. It was military with the Hippocratic sign on its side.

The tetanus batch was there but the baby formula and malaria vaccine rations would have to remain. They packed up their aging Hilux, securing the precious cargo as best as they could.

You’re the native?” The pilot asked.

Sanka Rozenja. Medical officer. This is Rami, combat paramedic.”

They signed the confirmation documents and the helicopter took off and headed back north. Rami drove and Sanka kept a close eye on the ropes in the back. When the food rations came, she had to worry about the crowds that would swarm the trucks but medicine came with the risk of spillage and they could not lose a vial. They had been doing these runs for close to a year. In 2 months, it would be 3 years since the first plane load of refugees landed.

They approached gate 12, closest to the camp hospital. A cardboard sign under the Gate 12 sign read, ‘THE END IS PAST’. Up close, the camp was a mess of crowded temporary settlements. It extended for a five mile radius. Children played football close to the gate where there was a little space. The younger ones ran next to the pick up to make the line at the dispensary. They were deeply tan, sun lotion was a luxury they could not remember having.

A line had already formed by the medical center. The mothers sat on the available wooden benches or on the floor keeping the flies off the children.

Habari madam, did they bring the medicine?” A blond woman with green eyes asked Sanka. She touched Sanka’s hand with a rough, calloused hand.

Yes, we have some.” Sanka said and directed the nurses and aides that would unload the medicine and take inventory before the medicine could be administered. The chief came out to look at the load.

Mr. James Magoha was a cardiologist and Chief Medical Officer at the Nuba refugee camp. He was relieved that the tetanus batch had come in and worried about having to continue rationing the baby formula. He was one of the few that had volunteered to go to India when the crisis began. A tall, imposing man, he never raised his voiced never needed to.

Send a full report to central. The mothers themselves are suffering from malnutrition, the babies need this formula.” He said.

I will do that immediately.” Sanka said.

There is something else. Get Rami and meet me in the office.” He went back in.

Rami was playing football with the boys as they waited. He was a native too, an Indian whose family had settled in Kenya in the 1900s. But he was brown, and that was all people cared to know.

The chief needs us.”Sanka yelled.

Rami passed the ball kicking up a cloud of dust.

Did you bring the sweets?” Robin asked. He was an 8 year old American boy, one of the new arrivals that needed the tetanus shot. He had no shirt and his cutoff jeans were patched up in several places. He lived with his mother in the outer tents on the camp wall.

Munyakei will be by tomorrow. He might bring some.” Sanka told him. The Maasai traded honey, meat, and milk with the camp residents for electronics or textiles that they sold in Nairobi.

The chief’s office was right in the middle of the dispensary on the Eastern edge of Nuba. It had been meant as a temporary check-up point in the beginning. It now had a capacity of 350 beds and an OR.

Magoha’s desk was bare except for the invoice they had just brought in with the drugs. He bore the look of a man forced to make hard choices. Nuba looked to him, not the diplomats in the air conditioned rooms at the center of the camp. He kept the peace, because he had the drugs.

There has been a break in.” He said

Where?” Rami asked. Sanka had been ready to ask a dozen questions about the truth of the statement but Rami was the military man.

The North side, Gate 9.” Magoha said.

Were they refugees trying to sneak in?” Rami asked.

No. There was no sneaking in. At 10 past midnight someone opened the gate and let a male of average height in.” Magoha said. Sanka calculated that 8 hours had passed.

What do we know?” Rami spoke again. Looking for what he could do, not fishing for a worst case scenario like Sanka.

Someone on the inside coordinated a break in. They knew when the guard changed. They let someone in.” He looked at Sanka then, “An opposition vessel was spotted off the coast of Port Elizabeth in Sudan three days ago. There is no information on what it was doing there.”

Sanka had been worried that the new arrival would be contagious, she was thinking about dealing with another TB outbreak. An opposition spy had been the last thing on her mind.

Even through Sudan, it would take longer than three days.” Rami said. They were in South Eastern Kenya.

All the same, I have called Central. They are sending a unit here. That will take a week. In the meantime, we all have to be watchful.” Magoha said.

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