NORMAN — A medical team working with a Norman-based humanitarian organization returned this week to the United States after performing 93 surgeries in eight days deep in the bush of Africa's Ivory Coast.
The doctors and nurses working with the 1040 Initiative, or 1040i, would have been able to perform more surgeries if Ivory Coast customs agents had released a large container filled with new supplies and equipment in time, representatives said.
The container, which included antibiotics and other medicines, basic surgical equipment, food and construction equipment, shipped from the United States in November.
“We've been shipping containers over for seven or eight years; it's always difficult getting it out, but never this difficult,” said Sabrina Yaw, 1040i's administrator, who served as hospital director during this trip and returned to Norman this week.
On Thursday, the group's representatives were hopeful that they had jumped over all the hurdles agents required to get containers released from customs in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, so it could make the 20-hour or so trip north to the small city of Doropo, isolated in the African bush.
The offices of both Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, and U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, became aware of the container problem in the last couple of weeks and were trying to help resolve it. Norman plumber Bob Usry, who has gone on previous trips, said he had also reached out to a friend who ships internationally as part of her job to see if she could help using her connections.
On Friday, 1040i representatives were disappointed to learn that they weren't getting the container in time for the arrival of a second phase of workers, who are arriving in Doropo this weekend and will be there for the next 10 days or so to build an elementary school.
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For more information about the medical phase of the trip and read about the second phase, which is gearing up this weekend, go to www.