Australian nurse Marie Reyes is on her second mission with Médecins Sans Frontières. She is in Kyrgyzstan working as a nursing activity manager in Osh and she continues to share her experiences working in the field with us.
Every year, World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is celebrated on the 24 March and this year our team busily prepared a local event. Kara Suu Bazaar—the biggest market in Osh—was the place chosen to host the event. Media was invited and other partners were encouraged to collaborate to make the event successful. Our message emphasised the importance of early detection and treatment. We erected a banner on a busy street so that people passing by in cars, buses, trucks, marshutkas (mini vans transporting passengers) could read about TB symptoms and know that it is curable if medical help is sought early. Our stage was marked with an arch of balloons; there were singers, dancers, and musicians that volunteered their time and talent to support the event. Ministry of Health (MoH) doctors took to the microphone to answer questions about TB from the local people, while others went around the bazaar handing out brochures, sticking posters on the walls and speaking to people about TB. There was a Q&A portion too and those that answered correctly got a small free gift from us!
One of our cured patients also shared their story and I noticed a vendor stop what she was doing to pay attention. The media aired the event on national TV that night and with that, we hope that more people got to hear about TB. Community awareness is one of the strategies used to address stigma about TB. Often someone with TB keeps it secret from their family. However, that day, one lady took to the microphone and boldly stated “my husband has TB, can I also get infected?” Perhaps with the right message going across, there is less fear and stigma about TB in the community. A number of questions came up regarding the accessibility of TB drugs. Often, people have to pay for medical services and medication – something that deters many, especially low income families, from seeking medical help. It is an important aspect of TB control that TB drugs are free and during our event the message went out that Médecins Sans Frontières provides free DRTB drugs to the KS (Kara Suu) district community.
"One of our cured patients also shared their story and I noticed a vendor stop what she was doing to pay attention"
The event was a resounding success, particularly because of the collaboration between all the partners: MoH hospital director, doctors and nurses, ICRC representatives, Padruga Women's Group, health promotion groups, the media, medical college students, some of our cured patients, and Médecins Sans Frontières. You can definitely accomplish much when there's unity and team work at play. It was an event that was a joy to witness. On a personal note, today marks the last day of my one week ‘mandatory’ break after three months in the field. I travelled to Bishkek and the famous Issyk Kul Lake. I also got to enjoy the variety of international food Bishkek had to offer. It's amazing how much you get to appreciate the simple things in life, like sipping an authentic latte with the view of the green leafy tall trees of Bishkek's parks.
My Easter this year was also celebrated differently. While back home, friends and families go to church and exchange chocolate eggs or bunnies or play egg hunts, mine was marked by a walk around the river and hill overlooking a magnificent canyon. The only egg shape chocolates I found in Osh were the Kinder surprise eggs (although there were boiled eggs painted by the kids of one of my colleagues to celebrate the occasion with a touch of home). Essentially, we celebrated Easter, Osh style, with a picnic by the river on a nice, sunny Easter Day this year. Well, it's time for me to do some packing before my very early morning flight back to Osh tomorrow, so see you later folks!