2013-03-27 20.27.03

2013-03-27 20.29.08

???????????????????????????????Our second visit for the day was the local International Planned Parenthood Federation affiliate, AIBEF. I visited AIBEF exactly 20 years ago when it was not in a good place because of poor governance. The current AIBEF is blossoming, having realized a vision that was expressed all these years ago: aside from the usual family planning services, there are HIV/AIDS services (diagnosis and treatment plus outreach to young and old), there are pediatric services, ultrasound, and even a maternity plus training rooms and lodging. There is of course a new vision that includes an operating theatre.

We were warmly received and given a tour and loaded with brochures and T-shirts at the end. From the logistics managers we received the same orange/white T-shirt he wore. It had a message on the back that no one should be dying of an abortion gone wrong. Abortion is still illegal here except under a few tightly worded exceptions, but even then it requires multiple doctors to agree. It is still the doctor who decides, although the doctors are no longer male.

When asked whether there had been progress, everyone agreed they had come a long way. That long way was hardly interrupted by ‘la crise,’ as the time of warring presidents is commonly referred to. AIBEF came out OK, partially because of heroic behavior of its leadership and may be also because of its location and local support. I learned that the MSH office here was less fortunate and was reduced to its walls with everything stolen or broken. That, I believe, has nothing to do with politics but everything with unbridled rage, let loose by power plays of well-dressed gentlemen who claim to not be in control (or is it not like that?).

In the evening our host took us to a small maquis (inexpensive local no-frill restaurant) at the edge of the Laguna that separated us from the skyscrapers of Abidjan. To get to the maquis we first traversed the empty section of town where the embassies and big people had returned from a busy day at work for a quiet evening. Then we entered a vibrant quarter which consisted of bars, maquis and hair salons, with music everywhere. Here everyone was wide awake and ready for a busy night. We parked on an unpaved and potholed road, put a man in charge of the surveillance of our car and walked over to a place that we would never had suspected was a waterfront restaurant.

Although the Laguna is polluted, the smell I had expected, if it was there at all, wafted away on an outgoing wind which kept us cool and the mosquitoes away. We had carpe braisee, a local specialty with vinegary onions and pepper and some wicked hot sauces, french fries and aloko (fried plantain, a specialty in this part of Africa), while sipping a Flag beer. Across the Laguna we could see the traffic jam of cars trying to get home, as late at 8:30 PM it was one solid line of yellow car lights. Traffic here, as in nearly all capitals of developing countries, is intense as the middle classes are growing and buying cars; a sign of prosperity, that is creating new problems screaming for solutions.

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