Salifou Ouedraogo is the director of Order of Malta’s training and relief activities in Burkina Faso. Since the beginning of the political crisis in Mali, he and his team have been providing assistance to Malian refugees. From the training center for emergency medical technicians in Bobo Dioulasso, Salifou talks about his work on the ground.
Could you give us an overview of the current humanitarian situation in the refugee camps? How is the reception of refugees, the food supply, the access to health care organised?
There are several international organisations on the ground to provide assistance in the camps. The refugees are given shelter in the camps by UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), and the food distribution is done by the World Food Programme. In the area of health care, we cooperate closely with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Médecins du Monde. Despite the assistance of organisations, the situation of refugees in Northern Burkina Faso remains precarious. Their health status is very poor, and there are problems in managing the camps and in the outposts – especially when it comes to delivering babies.
What role has the emergency medical staff played since the start of the crisis? How is the medical transport organized?
The Order of Malta’s emergency medical team was already active in the region when the crisis started. Since then, we have been providing additional assistance in Bobo-Dioulasso, in western Burkina Faso. We set up two big tents, where we provide first-aid training for refugees, in addition to various medical services. We have also arranged the medical transport of sick refugees to health care centres in neighbouring towns. In northern Burkina Faso, two ambulances have been equipped and are positioned in Dori and Gorom-Gorom – each ambulance with a paramedic and an emergency medical technician. The service is free for the refugees and is funded by the Order of Malta.
What challenges have you faced so far?
Every day, we have to ensure the safety of our staff (emergency medical teams, trainers and paramedics) and goods (ambulances, equipment).They allow us to provide assistance to those in need: the poor, the sick and the weak.
What motivates you and gives you strength even in difficult times?
Our source of motivation is our love of our neighbours. The joy and relief we experience when we save someone in great need is what energises us to do our job. We believe in solidarity, and we will continue to work to uphold our values.
What is the most striking experience you’ve had at work?
There have been two memorable moments that really touched me. The first was when a woman gave birth in one of our ambulances during a medical evacuation. The second was when we helped two young children who lost their parents after a flood – we wanted to give them hope and help them regain their will to live once more.
On behalf of all the emergency medical staff and the sick and injured people we help, I would like to thank all the donors of the Order of Malta. Even a small contribution can bring happiness to many people.
Interview: Ordre de Malte France
All pictures provided by Malteser International are free of charge and can be used for media coverage on Malteser International. Please mention "Malteser International" as image source. All image rights are held by Malteser International. This regulation does not apply to pictures marked otherwise.