Category Archives: Democratic Republic of Congo

Duru, Province Orientale, DR Congo

After we finished our vaccination program in the area around Ndedu, we headed north of Dungu to a town called Duru. We then planned and organised to vaccinate all the villages from Duru south back to Dungu in a single day. The trip was 93km each way but it took us less than 3 hours to get to Duru, which means it’s an amazing road by Congolese standards!

The road from Dungu to Duru, DR Congo

The reason the road is so good is that the Indonesian military is on the ground as part of the United Nations (MONUSCO) mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They’re amazingly efficient at building and improving roads, and the quality of their work is really impressive.

Indonesian military bulldozer preparing the Dungu-Duru road

I didn’t take too many photos on this day trip. This is the backside of the large Catholic church in the town of Duru:

Catholic church, Duru, DR Congo

This kid was staring at me when we tried to find the catechist to discuss placing a vaccination site beside the church, so I asked if I could take his photo:

Child carrying bricks, Duru, DR Congo

Within seconds his friends or siblings showed up with their bricks, too, wanting their pictures taken. It’s always fun showing little children photos on a digital camera screen afterwards; they get a real kick out of it.

Children carrying bricks, Duru, DR Congo

On the way back to Dungu one of the places we stopped was this monument to three FARDC soldiers killed by Joseph Kony’s LRA a couple years back:

Monument to three FARDC soldiers killed by the LRA
Monument to three FARDC soldiers killed by the LRA

Anyone looking for a map of the Dungu-Duru road with village names, distances, and motorcycle driving times, just contact me and I’ll send it all your way.

Disclaimer: The postings and views expressed on this site are mine alone, and do not represent the position or values of Médecins Sans Frontières.

Ndedu, Province Orientale, DR Congo

In mid-February, a few of us went south from Dungu to Ndedu by motorcycle to plan, prepare, and run three days of measles vaccinations. In the planning phase our job was to try and figure out which vaccination teams would go to which villages at which times, how long they’d stay in each place, and how long it would take to get to the next one. This was all decided with the advice and help of the local chief in each location, as well as other important people like school principals, health centre staff, church pastors, and parents.

At the same time, I made simple maps using my GPS device, as the Google Earth and United Nations maps (which are almost identical) lack all the place names and include several locality names which they’ve mapped as villages. My maps and distance charts are free if you contact me.

Map of the Dungu - Ndedu area, DR Congo

The “roads” through the jungle in this area range from a fairly smooth and wide path in some places to very, very, very bumpy and overgrown in others. Suffice it to say that, at the end of the fourth full day bouncing up and down on the back of a motorcycle in the jungle, I was a bit tired. Here are two of my motorcycle drivers crossing a slippery log bridge:

Motorcycles crossing a log bridge in the jungle outside Ndedu

Map of our second day based out of Ndedu:

Map of the Dungu - Ndedu area, including Kpekpere area, DR Congo

On the second day we visited villages in the area around Kpekpere, and went as far as Bawaku. One motorcycle also got a flat tire, which was soon repaired.

Inflating a flat motorcycle tire outside Ndedu, DR Congo

On the way back from Bawaku to Kpekpere we got caught by heavy rains and had to hide in the nearest large hut we could find. We were there about an hour, of which I spent perhaps 20 minutes sleeping.

Waiting out the rain on the Kpekpere - Bawaku road

Map of our third day based out of Ndedu:

Map of the Ndedu - Libombi road, DR Congo

On the third day we went all the way to Libombi, a three and a half hour drive, meaning seven hours of motorcycle movement that day, plus all the time we had to spend in each place along the way! This was by far the longest and hardest day, but it was still really fun.

On the fourth day I supervised three vaccination teams. Children waiting to be vaccinated in Li-Lungbu:

Children waiting to be vaccinated in Li-Lungbu, DR Congo

Inside a vaccination site in Kpekpere:

Inside a vaccination site in Kpekpere, DR Congo

Children waiting to be vaccinated in Kpekpere:

Children waiting to be vaccinated in Kpekpere, DR Congo

Motorcycling through the jungle south of Dungu:

Motorcycling through the jungle south of Dungu, DR Congo

Soon, we were back in Dungu for a much-needed day off work, followed by similar activities in the other direction: north! More on that later…

Disclaimer: The postings and views expressed on this site are mine alone, and do not represent the position or values of Médecins Sans Frontières.

How-To: The Loopy Logistician’s Leatherman Haircut

One cool evening in Dungu, Democratic Republic of Congo, a colleague asked me to cut her hair. I was flattered that someone had seen in me the same natural artistic ability I had long seen in myself but which I failed to make noticed by those around me; at the same time, I must admit to feeling confused at the request, having never cut anyone’s hair in my life (unless you count shaving my own head, or snipping off locks of my at-the-time toddler sister’s hair, after we got chewing gum stuck in it).

Being a logistician, when in the field my Leatherman multi-tool is never far from reach. Scissors, on the other hand, were at least ten meters away (this is equivalent to about six seconds at my average walking speed, recorded on several occasions as 6 km/h). The mathematics of convenience (aka laziness) clearly dictate that the Leatherman was the correct choice to cut my colleague’s curls. Of the many options available to me, I chose to use the serrated saw blade, having as logic the basic idea that cutting a loaf of bread is far easier with a serrated bread knife than with a non-serrated meat knife. Whether hair is more similar in nature to bread or a roast was a question that only occurred to me later on.

Rock Your Hair

Instructions: For the simplest and fastest Leatherman haircut, get your client’s hair in a ponytail, and ask him or her to hold around the base of the ponytail. You grab hold of the other end of the ponytail of hair with your non-Leatherman hand. While maintaining the ponytail fairly taut by pulling it away from your client’s head, begin sawing back and forth at a quick pace, without applying any downward pressure; the saw will carry itself downward as it cuts through. When finished, dispose of the newly shed locks or pass them on to someone in need.

Preparing for the Leatherman haircut
Cutting hair with a Leatherman saw

It worked!

Leatherman haircut complete

Not only did I manage, in less than ten seconds, to cut my colleague’s hair, but we were able to provide a hair piece for another colleague who, like me, no longer has a full head of his own hair.

Finding new use for the waste resulting from a Leatherman haircut

Stay tuned for the next Loopy Logistician’s Leatherman how-to: the Loopy Logistician’s Leatherman Martini!

The Leatherman saw used to cut hair

Le Parc National de la Garamba, Province Orientale, République Démocratique du Congo

Once we finished our measles vaccination campaign in Faradje, we were asked to fly west to Dungu to do the same. If you draw a line from Faradje to Dungu on the map (and there is indeed a road joining the two, though our security rules prevent us from driving along it), what you see above that line is Garamba National Park, once home to an incredible number and variety of wild animals. Unfortunately, it has for several years now been frequented by Joseph Kony’s famed Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which, some may recall, was active in Northern Uganda for many years, but eventually began to frequent areas of South Sudan, then DR Congo and Central African Republic once a number of militaries started putting more energy into pursuing them. The LRA not only terrorised and thereby displaced local populations all across the area, but they also seem to be part of the reason for a decrease in the number of wild animals in the park. Nevertheless, during the half hour flight from Faradje to Dungu in a Cessna 208 Caravan I, during which I was lucky enough to get the co-pilot seat again, we managed to see quite a few animals. Our pilot, John, could see the animals from far away, and banked the plane hard several times to get us closer for a better look.

John, pilot extraordinaire, banking left to see some elephants

I only had a wide-angle lens with me, so I took very few photos and focused on watching the animals with my own eyes, but I’ll post a couple pics anyways. In this photo, there are at least seven elephants, two of which have white birds on their backs. Can you see them all?

Seven elephants in Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

If not, here are zoomed views of two different parts of the photo:

Three elephants in Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo
Four elephants in Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

In total, I saw about twenty elephants during the flight. We also saw well over 200 hippos by my estimate, as we flew over at least ten groups of hippos lounging along the banks of the Dungu River, which runs through Garamba National Park, and each group had at least twenty individuals. For instance, I count at least 38 hippopotamuses in this photo:

At least thirty-eight hippos in Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

I didn’t get to fly the plane, but being in the co-pilot seat has its advantages regardless, mostly the chance to wear a headset and spend the entire flight chatting with the pilot and listening in on radio conversations between pilots and airport control towers.

Chris the co-pilot

As we flew over the town of Dungu to prepare for our final approach to Dungu Wando Airstrip, we got a clear view of the famed Dungu Castle. The story told about the castle’s construction is that the Belgian administrator at the time chose to build a single bridge across the river instead of two, using the bricks instead to build this medieval-style castle:

Dungu Castle from above