24 hours with Chris Sweeney

11 April 2019

Chris is an HV from Glasgow. He is on his third assignment with Médecins Sans Frontières, as the nursing activity manager in Ethiopia.

My alarm goes off at… around 6.30am to the sound of birdsong and lizards running across my tent. I wash my face at the water pump, watching jerry cans bob up and down on the other side of the compound fence as women fetch water. After breakfast, I take a multivitamin and malaria prophylaxis, grab my mobile phones and keys, then leave for the office. I stop at the central pharmacy and remove ice packs from the freezer for the day’s immunisation activities.

I am responsible for... our health posts in the Nguenyyiel and Tierkidi refugee camps, and their 200 staff, in the Gambela region of Ethiopia. During the last six months of 2018, these six primary care facilities provided 32,000 outpatient consultations.Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is providing healthcare for the 800,000 people in the region, half of whom are refugees fleeing violence in South Sudan.

I oversee the staffing needs of the health posts with the help of our HR team and Excel spreadsheets, and medical and non-medical procurement with the help of the logistics team. On a Saturday afternoon, I review medical data and stocks of medical consumables.

On a weekly basis… I carry out training with the nursing staff in each health post. This week we are reviewing wound care, from greeting the patient when they enter the room to appropriate prescribing practices for infections. The supervisors manage day-to- day activities, although I drop in to review procedures and carry out quality assurance checks. There was an emergency during a visit this week – an unconscious woman carried in by her neighbours. Well drilled, the team responded by diagnosing and treating her for malaria. She went on to make a full recovery.

The best aspect of my job is… being part of an organisation that provides medical care to, and advocates for, the world’s most vulnerable people. I get to witness the innate kindness and resilience of those who have seen war, famine and disease destroy their communities.

We maintain close proximity to the beneficiaries. In my current project, this means we live within the refugee camp. Experiencing different cultures 
is always a privilege.

My proudest achievement… and some of my favourite MSF memories have been watching staff grow and develop, knowing they’ll continue to provide care long after I leave. I’m also proud of seeing children make a full recovery, and to have some named after me has been a wonderful bonus.

Post-work… I shower by pouring a jug of water over my head in a cubicle. I always think of the water shortages and queues of women and children I see walking miles each day to find water, so I am careful to preserve this resource.

I’ll grab a cold drink and share a meal with my team over candlelight. Before bed, I try to find a spot with wi-fi so I can message friends and family.

For more stories from Chris and other MSF staff in the field: msf.me/2Zfm2CF

Download PDF