Six Months in Sudan: A Young Doctor in a War-Torn Village (Maskalyk)
Marrwah Ahmadzai recently read Six Months in Sudan, a blog turned book exploring the rewards and challenges of working at an MSF hospital in the middle of nowhere. Read Marrwah’s review below then check out more Books and Films.
Six Months in Sudan began as a blog by Dr James Maskalyk during a six month mission with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to Abyei, a small town on the contested border between Northern and Southern Sudan. Maskalyk begins the mission brimming with nervous excitement. However, his optimism is sucked away by the sombre mood in Abyei. He is immediately confronted with fulminating disease, imminent threat of war and inadequate resources. From a measles epidemic, to malnourished children, to haemorrhaging women, to female genital mutilation, Maskalyk has his hands full, often feeling helpless as he watches the patients slip away. The reality of the mission becomes stifling, like the dust and sweltering heat of Abyei. Maskalyk becomes disillusioned and encapsulates this vividly in his book: ‘the outside world grows quieter, the amplitude of my inner world louder’. As his burgeoning mental struggle deepens, his unvarnished recount of his experiences moves the reader to bear his frustrations and doubts with him.
Yet for all the harsh realities that repel Maskalyk, he remains drawn to Abyei and recognises hope in his mundane routine. Underneath the bed of a dying patient, Maskalyk finds a butterfly, a symbol of life and promise. He eventually concludes that though he cannot win every battle and save all his patients, every life saved is a victory. This candid reflection, as with all others in the book, is captured eloquently:
‘To the world, it doesn’t matter that much. Until you remember that it means the world to the patient. One exact world, bright and full of sounds, per person. That is what is lost.’
Maskalyk also sheds insight on the efficiency of MSF and the will that powers their missions. He mentions their reliance on the United Nations, highlighting the logistical issues associated with sustaining such a health initiative in a developing country.
Although Maskalyk’s psychological journey often drowns out the rest of the village, he nonetheless takes the reader to Abyei in a harrowingly honest and powerfully inspiring way. Read more on his blog.