Patients in the TB compound.
A LOCAL doctor who volunteered to help
victims of war, epidemic and disasters has told how she found
herself caught in cross fire between rival groups during a
mission to Africa last year.
Laura Rinchey (31) from Drumard Drive in
Ballymacoss worked with five different projects between March
and December last year as part of Medecins Sans Frontiers, a
medical humanitarian organisation that provides independent
relief to victims of war, disasters and epidemics.
It was while staying in a garrison town in
Nasir in Ethiopia she found herself in the gravest danger.
Despite having extensive training as a doctor
and for the trip, nothing could have prepared her for what she
was about to experience.
She had been treating patients suffering from
TB, Kalazhar, blood infections, malaria, malnutrition and even
One evening shooting began and at first she
thought it was fireworks. She was told to remain indoors until
it was safe. A market trader was killed by soldiers during the
shooting which lasted an hour. It even continued after the
funeral of the trader.
Laura was in the hospital ward treating
patients when the shooting started and was told to lie on the
"I thought I was going to die and that was
it," said Laura. "I remember being on the floor and thinking if
I die I die - what can you do. It was really scary but we tried
not to panic.
As it was too dangerous for the team to
remain they were forced to vacate the area, but not without
further trauma when it took the crew of their aircraft some time
to find the landing strip.
In Wudier, also in Ethiopia, Laura faced
other horrors which were equally devastating.
She was working in-a hospital where there
were many deaths - mostly children dying from simple blood
She can clearly remember one instance where a
young girl needed a blood transfusion and it proved impossible
to find a donor. By the time one was located the little girl had
"What was so frustrating was that it could
have been avoided," she said. "Many would leave it too late to
bring patients to the hospitals and there was little we could
Laura said she would like to return to Africa
to work in the field of obstetrics.
"Its something I always wanted to do and I
would encourage anyone with the chance to work with an
organisation like Medicins Sans Frontiers to do the same," she
said. "I feel it's something I was called to do."
Doctors' vital work in Sudan danger zone
A child who suffered from snakebite
that the team were treating.
Laura and her team evacuating the
LAURA Rinchey took part in a number of
different projects with MSF in Southern Sudan, last year.
Most of her time was spent in Nasir, an old
garrison town which is several days (African) walk from the
Ethiopian border and occupied by soldiers.
She also spent time in Leer with the cholera
team, where the MSF has a hospital with outpatients, TB and
surgery departments. Many patients are transferred to this site
During her nine months Laura was also located
in Wudier in Ethiopia. Though a smaller project than others, it
had the advantage of other Aid Agencies such as Oxfam also being
stationed in the area.
The team dealt with an increase in the number
of diarrhoea illnesses and malnutrition cases. They often had to
contact Oxfam to obtain community education for those areas or
to ensure access to a water pump.
Two other MSF projects Laura did not get the
chance to work with were in Malaka, the Southern capital, where
much of the work was transferred to governmental agencies and
Piere, which had to be evacuated frequently due to instability.