Australian doctor Saschveen Singh describes her experience of ‘the big machine’ as a member of the MSF team working to provide medical care for refugees in Nduta camp, Tanzania.
- There are more than 600 staff working for MSF in Nduta.
- MSF is not only doctors and nurses: medical teams work together with many other professionals to reach and treat patients.
Something that inspires me and keeps me going every day is that among the chaos that is a refugee camp, and despite all the limitations and restrictions, there is an incredible sense of teamwork that permeates our activities at our hospital and in the community health posts. The work of the 600-plus staff on the ground with MSF here in Nduta is no mean feat, and it never ceases to amaze me how it somehow all comes together each day and keeps an incredible momentum, charged with the collective energies of the people here. Before I started working for MSF, I heard people talking about ‘the big MSF machine’, where all our key priorities come together in one combined effort. The project in Nduta really epitomises this: no one department could exist or function without the support of another.
“Our refugee colleagues deal with the reality of living in a tent, but still come to work every day and give it their all”
Many people are of the misconception that MSF is comprised only of doctors and nurses, however the reality is that the medical teams would have no way of reaching the population or administering care without the support of a huge number of other professionals making it happen.
Not a single vaccination can take place without the complex network of supply and pharmacy experts who ensure that vaccines reach their target patients, so they can work their magic to prevent devastating infections. The ‘cold chain’ process of transporting vaccines at a constant cold, stable temperature to prevent their spoiling is one of the biggest logistical hurdles in public health in this setting.
No medical interventions would be possible if there were no shelter, essential equipment or electricity onsite. No patient could improve and survive without access to clean water for drinking, hand-washing and surgical procedures, or without access to latrines and safe sewerage management.
No healthcare facility could continue to provide a safe and clean environment without the intensive labour of the hygiene officers, cleaners and sterilising teams at all hours of the day. No infectious disease could be quickly identified, tracked, treated, monitored, nor prevented in its spread to others, without the intensive community surveillance and education by our health promotion team.
“The medical teams would have no way of administering care without the support of a huge number of other professionals making it happen”
No lifesaving blood transfusions could occur without the support of laboratory personnel and the refugees who offer to be blood donors. No patient’s malnutrition would be treated without the hard work of our nutrition assistants and the hospital kitchen.
No patient could have their complaints and concerns understood without the dutiful assistance of our medical interpreters. No hospital or health service would be able to function without the incredible input of the HR and finance teams, for everything from recruitment and payment of staff, to timetabling, purchasing and coordination.
No patient could even be reached without the assistance of our transport, ambulance and mechanic teams on the ground.
There is an amazing staff morale and work ethic, especially considering the circumstances. I’ve been inspired by so many of the people I work with here, in particular our refugee colleagues who have to deal with the reality of living in a tent, but who still come to work every day and give it their all.
Since my time here, I can confidently say that I now understand this term, ‘the big machine’, as I see each of these key priorities in action every single day, and it still takes my breath away. More simply expressed: this is the quintessential example of how teamwork unites us for humanity.