Garissa, Kenya: A Town in Shock

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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Dr. Bashir Abdiweli is the medical team leader who coordinated the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) response to the Garissa University attacks in eastern Kenya. He arrived on April 2 with MSF’s medical team in the aftermath of the attack to support the Garissa Hospital team in the treatment of casualties.

We heard early on Thursday morning about the incident, and a couple of hours later, the Kenyan authorities asked us to respond. We immediately put a team together and organized medical supplies, including surgical items and emergency medical care drugs and equipment.

But we had no idea how the situation actually was. We didn’t know that it would turn out to be this kind of disaster.

When we arrived at the hospital, the situation was chaotic. Casualties were coming in rapidly, and the existing hospital team were extremely stretched. We had to immediately help with triaging patients to make sure the most severely wounded received surgery quickly. One of our nurses was assisting in the operating theater. We were also working in the emergency unit, as well as providing post-surgery care.

The main wounds we were seeing were blast-related or gunshot wounds in the legs, arms or hands. A few of the patients had head wounds. We helped in the treatment of more than 70 wounded patients.

MSF MEDICAL TEAM HELPS TREAT MORE THAN 70 WOUNDED IN GARISSA ATTACK

We worked until midnight, and at that time, most of the casualties had been taken care of.

Yesterday morning we went to the airport, where over 300 students who had been rescued had spent the night. Many who we tended to had wounds sustained when they were trying to escape through broken windows. For those, we cleaned the wounds and provided dressings. There were also some who we saw who needed to be referred back to the hospital as their wounds were quite severe.

The general feeling at the airport was one of deep shock. Most of the students did not actually want to talk about what they had experienced. The trauma they went through was enormous. We had to refer most of the patients to whom we provided medical care for post traumatic counselling. Many would break down when they started to talk to us and remember the events.

Many of the students had not had anything to eat or drink, and they were exhausted from the trauma and lack of sleep.  Our team also supplied them with some water and food. 

The feeling in Garissa town is very somber and sad. The general public are in shock about what happened. A sadness has descended.

Now the hospital is calm, and there is minimal activity. We provided some medical supplies to the hospital  this morning and the team has now left because the medical situation is under control.