• Check here to see blog posts from some of our Survivors of War students
Medical Student's Experiences in Kenyan Refugee Camp

Medical Student's Experiences in Kenyan Refugee Camp

*This is the second blog written by a Gua Africa student. The author of this post is Mike Riek, who has recently graduated with a degree in Clinical Medecine.* 

My experiences working as a doctor in the Kakuma Refugee Camp

By Mike Riek

"I want to write to you about the work I was doing with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya. The most important thing that I would like to say is that I enjoyed everything that I was doing for the refugee communities there. On a typical day I would work for at least 12 hours speaking up to 5 languages a day. It was good to recall my Arabic and I learned a lot more of it. I also had to learn more about the Dinka language which is very close to my dialect the Nuer language, and of course I also had to speak to the locals in Swahili.

My main roles were consultations with mothers with sick children, adult consultations and attending to emergencies before we admit them to the wards. Also attending ward rounds twice a week and at least six night shifts per month. When I started rotations at the Outpatient Department (OPD), I started at the watoto's (children's) clinic. In a day I received mothers from different communities (South Sudanese, Congolese, Ugandan, Rwandan) bringing children with different conditions. The major causes of admission for the children were malnutrition, malaria, pneumonia, and diarrheal diseases. 

On a normal working day I start at 7.30am so that those who were on night's shift could be allowed to go and have some sleep. From that moment we usually kick off with emergencies, then top-priority children and then finally we start with the non-emergent patients at 9.30am. In the Inpatient Department there are the paediatrics ward, female ward, male ward, isolation ward and the tuberculosis (TB) ward. It was really satisying work and made me forget what goes on in the outside world. The scorching sun and dust didn't matter when immersed in such demanding working conditions.

One could feel the appreciation of what he/she is doing through the response of the beneficiaries as well as that of the colleagues. Just 2 weeks after working with IRC, the clinician in charge of the OPD clinics explained to me how he had waited for a chance to go on one month's leave and now that I am there his supervisor has agreed to let him go.

Some refugees, as you would understand, have mental health issues or at least family problems. I often had to deal with people demanding I admit their relative/child. The IRC hospital is so overstretched that a very strict criteria has to be followed before an admission is done. When we have done enough assessment, a thorough examination and have enough justification for our admission, we can then send them to the wards. This is rarely understood by the average refugee. One more thing that I also learned as a service provider for the refugee communities was their thoughts that they have rights to demand the free services that are offered by the UN agencies. It is for sure good for them to know their basic human rights, unfortunately they then fail to understand which services they don't need in excess like the case of drugs.

Despite these difficulties much good was happening. Much suffering was relieved and many were appreciative of the services rendered to them. They would come back giving thanks and I would remind them that it was all because of some generous people somewhere in this world who enable IRC to provide these servcies, and those Gua Africa supporters who helped me pursue medical education thus enabling me to be of service to you.

Thank you for reading my blog post."