Igloos at work in Tonga

by Priya Chandra

Today was really, really, really hot – just one of those days where your breath is taken away by the heat and even standing still makes you sweat. Made me realise just how used I am to the cool climate of Canberra!

The rest of this blog was actually meant to be uploaded on Tuesday but thanks to connectivity issues, it hasn’t been possible until today (Thursday). 

Sorry for any confusion.

Helen and I did a bit of travelling around today watching the medical people in action. It was absolutely amazing seeing the conditions that these guys are working under and the sheer number of people that they’re seeing. 

We went to two main sites – the Prince Ngu Hospital and Tua, a green field site. This site was literally set up in a local’s field with a dental surgery, medical centre, pharmacy and optometrist! It was an extraordinary set-up and extremely popular with the locals. Apparently the site was chosen because it is close to 3 villages and judging by the numbers of people that we saw there today, plus the numbers that have been through in the past week the population of all 3 villages must have been through at least once.

I was talking to the American optometrist who was completely struck by the lack of eye-care available here in Tonga. He’s been issuing simple reading glasses – the kind you buy from a chemist – and regular sunnies to people over 45, and for the first time in years these individuals are able to read again. The regular sunnies are to help prevent cataracts, caused by squinting in the strong sunlight for so many years.

The best thing I saw all day though had to be the dentist set up. There were two dental surgeries – one at the hospital and one at the Tua site. Both are basically self contained igloos that come on a trailer and are unpacked at the desired location. They come with their own generator and were the only air-conditioned areas at both sites! The dentists have camp chairs or stretchers for the patients to sit in and work in really close quarters for many hours extracting teeth and doing basic surgery. Here’s an outside shot of the igloo taken by Helen:


Finished the day by riding in a Marine Humvee which meant wearing Flack jacket and a helmet that was so large I had to hold it onto my head as we careened down the road. Oh, and I got to eat one of the much vaunted American MREs (meals, ready to eat). They do vegetarian versions and it wasn’t too bad – a veggie patty in BBQ sauce. So I was quite the American girl today.


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