This week was marked by a new experience for us (mainly Eugénie): contact with the health care in Bobo Dioulasso. She will tell you the story.
Hortense is a scholarship holder in a boarding school. On January 3rd, she was supposed to go back to school as well as the other 51 children. On her way from her village to Bobo she felt sick and stayed behind at the house of Désiré (our director in Burkina). On Wednesday last week, she was still not better and was taken to the doctor. She had pain on the right lower side of her tummy. Saturday she was feeling only worse. The vomiting did not help for the intake of the antibiotics and blood analysis and an ultrasound were ordered. It being Saturday meant that nothing further could be done until Monday… No such thing as emergency service!

Monday the exams were done and only Tuesday morning the results were there. The symptoms were confusing and since she had had “some” of the antibiotics and there were some signs, it was concluded that she had Typhoid fever.  Because of the vomiting, antibiotics and pain medication were prescribed intravenously, once a day, on Tuesday and Wednesday. It seemed she was getting “better”, so we were to watch her closely. Thursday I realized that she had been sent home without a prescription for oral antibiotics (!) She was getting worse again so the pediatrician decided he wanted a consult from a surgeon from the private sector, there is only one in town… Here comes a perfect example of one of the problems in African society: funerals. All activities are on hold because of them. A former government minister was buried that afternoon so the surgeon could not be reached, nor did he leave somebody else in charge. So we had no other choice but to go to the emergency department of the local “university hospital”. An experience I can only describe as a NIGHTMARE!!!!! I will spare you the details of filth and lack of instruments such as basic gloves that WE were supposed to supply…  The surgeon was also in doubt about the diagnosis and wanted to see another ultrasound. There is none in the hospital so that was supposed to be done “outside” the next morning. In the mean time she was supposed to stay at the hospital for observation and intravenous treatment.NO WAY!!!! I negotiated to take her back home, with the perfusion, and keep an eye on her myself. She spent a horrible night, poor girl. Next morning ultrasound, that in itself worth a story but I will spare you that as well. Nothing to be found on that, again, except for a cyst in the right ovary. A very temporary relief for everybody thinking it was just that…  Because of that, consultation with a gynecologist, only available at 6pm (pffff). For him no doubt: Appendicitis, the cyst was not big enough to give such trouble (3cm), immediate transfer to the private clinic to the famous absent surgeon of the day before… , whom had just left when we got there at 6.45 pm and wasn’t answering his phone (OF COURSE!!!!). I called upon all of my ancestors, the entire universe and Hervé psychic abilities to make him answer his phone. People must have thought I was an insane white woman. I was pacing in front of the clinic: “Bounkoungou answer the phone, Boungkoungou answer the phone….”  It worked!!! He came, together with a colleague even! Unfortunately for Hortense, the whole ordeal had lasted so long that her body had kind of protected the area by ”wrapping” the appendix in a cluster of intestines. This is what they call a “plastron”. I don’t know the lay terminology for it. What it entails is that she can’t be operated without risking perforating the surrounding intestines which are by now glued together. Treatment is now “cooling off” the area with high doses of antibiotics and anti-inflamatories. And pain medication of course, because she is suffering a LOT. No morphine though because that would paralyze the intestines again…  Anything less than morphine doesn’t really do the trick though. At this moment she is still in the clinic, getting only marginally better. The fever has subsided but that is about all we can really say. The pain is still there. Today another ultrasound, because there are still questions about why she is still in so much pain after the treatment she is getting. I will keep you posted. An operation will not be for another few months, until the intestines have “unglued” themselves. We can only hope that there will be no major crisis before that. We would not be here and I can tell you that this was one of those occasions that it was good to be white….

Hortense is one of the 4 students who were sent to the north to a private boarding school. She is very smart and “jumped “a class upon arrival. She is supposed to take a final exam this year to continue to another school after that. She is naturally worried about her prospects. We will see to it that she can catch up the lost time. All we need to worry about now is to get her back on her feet.

It was a horrible experience, not in the least because of the fact that I had purposely managed to avoid any contact with local hospitals until now. I knew that would be horrible, but largely underestimated how horrible. Also amazing to see that there is no such thing as “emergency” service, such as blood works, x-rays or ultrasounds. Just wait your turn until the offices open again… When I spoke about this to one of the many doctors I saw, he just hoisted his shoulder and said: “Here you are lucky if the doctor is there, otherwise…”. I shudder with the thought what would have happened to this girl if we had not been here…. What a waste!

It was an extremely difficult experience for Désiré who has lost his daughter through meningitis in the same hospital where we were that night, last May. She was about the same age. But he stood beside me like rock to help me through all tries and tribulations.

Hervé will take over again….

While all this was happening, Barbara arrived on Tuesday evening with two friends (Mieke and Rein) inOuagadougou. Eugénie was supposed to have gone to Ouaga to pick them up and introduce Barbara to all the artists. Barbara is the person in charge of Burkin’art now. Because of Hortense we had decided last minute for Eugénie to stay in Bobo. We were able, with the help of Prosper, to take care of them and send them to the hotel. On Wednesday they took the bus to come to Bobo Dioulasso.

On the village’s side, we had two presentations of the agricultural social business, one in Nefrelaye and one in Sokourani. Again a lot of interest, over 100 people attending the presentations. For farmers we cannot directly explain social business. We have chosen to translate it in “the house for the agricultural development”. In this imaginary house there are several rooms: one for field input, one for training, one for mechanization and one for commercialization. In order to get into the house a farmer need to have the keys: change of mentality, size of his land, previous experience with ASAP.

They seem to understand the concept rather well. In Nefrelaye, Désiré and Jean Francois realized that there was something not right with the farmers. After several questions, they managed to tell us that they were afraid that ASAP would live their village. It was positive since they understood that this new venture was not ASAP. After some explanation they were able to concentrate again on the subject.


Presentation of Karim in Nefrelaye

Farmers from Nefrelaye

Parents’association president  


Women in Nefrelaye

Women of Sokourani

Meeting in Sokourani


Meeting in Sokourani

Farmer of Sokourani


Barbara among the women of Sokourani

On Friday we had a meeting with 6 villages where we will open centers for alphabetization. This program is to alphabetize young adults in local language (Dioula). The method used is the REFLECT method created by the Brazilian P. Freire. It is a participative method where the students make the program. We have trained some villagers to be able to lead those centers. Each center will have a maximum of 30 people. In order to be more efficient we have to send the trainees to a different village than their own.

On Friday we had also a surprise visit from some women from Mogobasso. They came to pay off part of the debt from their husbands. The men were too scared to show their faces!  We agreed with them that, in order for us to return to Mogobasso, we needed a list with the names of the people who are delinquent on their loans. This list needs to be countersigned by  the debtors and the local mayor.  Only then we will consider the possibility of re-opening the nursery school and other programs. Eugénie told the women that they are the strong ones in the village and, if united, they could have the power to wake the men up. This had happened in Oualana before. I told them that maybe they should go on strike by not cooking for them anymore. Eugénie gave them the suggestion for a strike on a more intimate basis…. The last one would no doubt not work, because they would be beaten into submission. It was good for a good laugh though. We will wait and see what happens next. They have until the end of January and otherwise it will be “schluss” for Mogobasso…

The container has finally arrived in Bobo. A big sigh of relieve on our part. Wednesday we will see if the locks are still intact and that we had no “visitors”. Will keep you posted.

This coming week, Eugénie will be going back toOuagadougouwith our visitors, to visit the bronze artists there before they will be returning to the cold again. We have 4 visits to villages this week. Very busy.

Poster in front of the fire brigade close to our home:

“Better be late one hour for a meeting than years too early in heaven”

“Mieux vaut arriver une heure en retard à une réunion que des années d’avance au ciel”

Take care.




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