Gennike Mayers, IFRC

Rahima Akter Khushi is a female interpreter who has been with the Red Cross Red Crescent emergency field hospital since the start.  “At first it was very difficult for me. During my first week I had four consecutive nighttime shifts and I was sleeping in the patient’s tent without any mosquito net and worked in the maternity ward helping to deliver babies.”

While accommodation has improved considerably since the start of the operations, staff still live in tents. “I used to camp when I was a scout but that was maximum four or five days. Now I am living here in a tent for the past 11 months. We have a camping cot with a small mattress, a light and a fan. At first there was one tent for eight translators and later I got a little green tent just for me, but it was very hot. One month ago, we got a bigger tent with inner compartments to share with other colleagues. We removed the inner divisions to make one big room and it is much cooler. I prefer sharing.”

In terms of job and working conditions, Khushi feels a sense of satisfaction working at the hospital, “It is great working with the Red Cross. They know how to take care of their staff. This is the longest job I’ve ever had and I enjoy working with the international staff. I feel like I am respected as a woman working equally with men. I have no problem working at night. I feel safe.”

Khushi, like her colleagues have experienced many intense moments while working and living at the hospital. “I saw many difficult cases last year like mass casualties, and people trampled by elephants. Once in the middle of the night I saw a big elephant trying to enter the compound through the back. The security guards tried to distract the elephant while I called the team leader who was sleeping. The elephant left our area, but it seems it went into the nearby camp. Soon after we had people from the camp coming to the hospital with broken arms and legs. An elephant trampled them.”

Over time, caring for patients with serious medical conditions can take its toll on healthcare workers. While international staff are deployed for short periods of time, they can be very intense and emotionally charged. Wanting to do their utmost best for patients in their care, often healthcare workers neglect to care for themselves and this can lead to burnout.

Khushi explained, “When I saw these kinds of things it can be traumatic. The hardest job is to inform a mother that her baby died. There was a case when a baby had a difficult birth but was okay, then the baby died after a few weeks. I needed PSS. I cried a lot. It was hard. For many days, I had bad dreams about dead bodies and babies crying.”

Despite witnessing the most unpleasant sights and the pressure of being on call, Khushi is determined to stay with the hospital for as long as her services are needed. “I really enjoy working here especially in the maternity ward. I am always very close to the patient translating what the doctors and nurses are saying. The staff tell me I am the connection between the patient and them. I feel like an assistant midwife.”

Since the hospital opened in October 2017, a total of 43,780 patients have been treated, 5,340 children have received psychosocial support at the child friendly space, 2,211 surgeries were performed, and 511 babies were born.