Escape bag for medical care when a person runs away
Health workers are also on the move.
How do they tend to be civilians in permanent flight? Doctors without borders is testing a new strategy: a “runaway bag”.
It’s a backpack made of tarpaulins and weighs about 12.5 pounds. What’s inside? Antibiotics, painkillers, anti-malarial drugs (and rapid detection), bandage wound materials, oral rehydration solutions, water purification labels and a pen and a record that has been issued. The abbreviation for Medecins sans frontieres, a single bag of luggage, is meant to deliver enough supplies to treat between 50 and 70 people in two weeks. If a mass evacuation occurs, the idea is to require local staff to carry their luggage.
In the early stages of development, medecins sans frontieres believed that some of the luggage should carry a satellite phone and install solar panels for charging. Then the staff realized that a package containing high-tech equipment might look like members of an armed group. So medecins sans frontieres gave up the idea.
These packages are also designed to be generic: they are black, with a small MSF logo on the back. Doctors without borders does not want people to wear them as targets for both sides of the conflict.
The idea for the escape came from the organization’s displaced units, in Nairobi, to support the “failed mission” team. They are talking to doctors without borders in south Sudan, who are packing their bags in a swamp as a mobile clinic boat.
“We are running late,” said Ana Santos, head of the displacement department, referring to the attack on the Nile state in south Sudan in January 2016.
This is when the mortar rounds were fired at a market in the city of Wau Shilluk. It was a chaotic atmosphere. “People don’t get to go home, take things, just grab the kids and run out of town,” said Philippe Carr, a communications consultant with MSF. Some rushed into the surrounding jungle, while others went to the northern villages for safety. Doctors without borders’ hospital was evacuated and looted, and is now “just a shell of a building,” carr said.
Santos said that 30, 000 people who fled Wau Shilluk had not received health care for at least two weeks. They hardly ever go far. Even the healthiest people are at risk of dehydration. They may hurt their feet. They can catch malaria all the way from mosquitoes. During the dry season, they may turn to stagnant swamp water and try to drink water. Santos wants to create “very specific conditions if you walk in this environment for two weeks”.
Amnesty international records that, in addition to looting and burning at home, government troops are shooting at the back as they try to escape.
Santos did not know how quickly the first thought of out-of-control baggage could be put into use in February. By April, the government and rebel forces had broken out, leaving some 25,000 people fleeing the town of kodok, a town that had been resettled by thousands of people three months after leaving val hilluk. Santos said 29 health workers, each carrying a runaway bag, followed the fleeing population.
At the moment, a small village in ABU luk has ten out-of-control luggage. It was the main destination for the evacuation of kodok in April. But in May, in addition to nearby fighting, food and water scarcity caused some 20,000 people to flee the country’s neighboring Sudan. This fall, gunfire was heard near MSF’s 12-bed Aburoc medical facility.
Thomas Quinn, director of the center for global health at Johns Hopkins university, argues that out-of-control packages are a useful idea. He likens it to a doctor’s bag, but there is more room for supply. He says the backpack makes weapons free, so medical workers can help patients as much as possible: “when you move quickly, nothing moves faster than a backpack.”
Not every aid organization believes that a package is the solution. Jill John Kall, senior health adviser at IMC, said it was a different approach from the international medical team. The IMC requires local or foreign staff to wait for vehicles at various locations along the route to seek safety. Health workers often treat dehydration, diarrhea and other diseases common among displaced people. Sometimes the local people will open the hospital to the medical staff so that they can serve the people. But John carr agrees: “it is important to monitor the continued displacement of displaced people, and every displacement becomes more vulnerable.”
Medecins sans frontieres does not claim that its out-of-control bags can help the entire population. And it was based on early feedback from two people who were carrying uncontrollable luggage. They both followed the flow of people across the border into Sudan. A runaway bag carrier reported that he gave five people oral rehydration solutions, but wanted the backpack to include asthma medications.
Aziz Harouna, medical coordinator for doctors without borders in south Sudan, said the new bag, which had been prepared in Aburoc about a month ago, had improved. “In order to reduce the weight of the bag, we have removed some items, such as fluid infusion from intravenous fluids,” said Harouna. The change reduced the load. As an alternative, there are more oral rehydration solutions that do not require trained health workers to manage.
The group says that when helicopters or mobile patrols are not a choice, handbags are a way to reach people. “In this case, we measure our impact not on the number of people we help, but on how we can save our lives,” santos said. Medecins sans frontieres is considering placing uncontrollable duffel bags in the volatile parts of Latin America.
Mr. Santos said people fleeing violence don’t necessarily think about the medical supplies they need to escape. They were afraid, but if they knew that health workers were carrying the bags along the way, she said, “it would give them the power of this extra step.”