WHD: On the frontline of humanitarian crises in South Sudan
17 August, 2012
Under the shade of a Nima tree
Under the heat of the midday sun and the shade of a tall Nima tree, Kennedy Monoja greets each patient with a warm smile as they queue to see him. Before the day is out, he will have made some 80 diagnoses. Kennedy Stevenson Monoja is a South Sudanese Clinical Officer working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). He has been working in the field of humanitarian relief for the past 25 years.
IOM has set up a mobile health clinic at Mina transit site in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State. The medical centre consists of a handful of plastic chairs, a wooden table and some basic medical supplies. It serves South Sudanese who have returned from Sudan and are in transit before leaving for destinations across the country.In its first two weeks, the clinic treated over 800 patients.
The conditions at the site are harsh. It lies next to marshland on the River Nile, home to mosquitoes, snakes and even, reportedly, the occasional hippopotamus. Many of the returnees have caught malaria; mosquitoes thrive in the wet conditions which are exacerbated by the seasonal rains. Kennedy takes a small swab of blood to diagnose each case of the parasite and treats those affected with the medicines available.
One of Kennedy’s first patients this morning is an eight month old baby. Baby Imman has a rash across his face. Kennedy explains to Imman’s young mother that the rash is caused by rubbing cooking oil on the baby’s skin. Some parents use the oil as a cheap substitute for moisturizer. He advises the mother that if she washes Imman’s face with soap and stops using the oil, the rash will disappear. Thankfully, he says, this ailment is easy to cure.
Kennedy finds it rewarding to use his skills and knowledge to help his people.
“I enjoy taking patient histories, to help identify areas of concern,” he says. “I need to decide whether to treat an illness on the spot or to make referrals.
“I appreciate the procedures that are in place to prevent damage or hurt to returnees travelling to their new homes,” he adds. “Vulnerable people who are sick need help to be stabilized before traveling. I feel lucky to be able to provide that help.”
Delivering babies in the world’s youngest nation
Eno Okon Inyang is a 35-year-old Nigerian working as a midwife in Juba, South Sudan’s capital city. She has been delivering babies in Juba since 2010. Eno entered the field of humanitarian work after reading an article about aid workers. Moved by what she read, she applied to volunteer in South Sudan by contributing her skills and experience in midwifery.
Eno also works in a temporary site hosting South Sudanese returnees. She set up a very basic antenatal clinic at the site to care for pregnant mothers and to deliver babies. Eno estimates that she has helped to deliver over 100 children in her 21 months in South Sudan.
Dying in childbirth is a very real threat to women in South Sudan. Maternal mortality is the leading cause of death for South Sudanese girls between 15-19 years. The country is estimated to have one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with 2,054 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
“One of the main reasons for the high levels of maternal mortality is the lack of access to appropriate healthcare for women,” says Eno. “I set up the antenatal clinic to give mothers and their newborns a better chance at survival.”
Responding to multiple emergencies
Daniel Matur from South Sudan has worked in several humanitarian operations since he began work in 2005.
In 2010, Daniel worked with people affected by Lord’s Resistance Army attacks in Western Equatoria State. He provided displaced people who had fled the attacks with emergency help including mosquito nets, shelters and blankets. That same year, over 100,000 people were displaced by fighting in the contested Abyei area. Daniel was deployed to provide emergency assistance to those in need. He was sent to sites hosting displaced people to distribute household items and construct emergency shelters.
South Sudan is affected each year by seasonal flooding, and Daniel also worked in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State to help people affected by heavy floods. He distributed water filters, mosquito nets and blankets to the vulnerable, and helped to provide pit latrines to improve sanitation conditions.
“What I enjoy most in my work is that I help to improve the lives of the people around me,” says Daniel. “However, the work is not always easy. My first difficult experience was in 2006 when I was stuck in the bush for several days, when IOM was moving South Sudanese returnees from Sudan’s South Darfur to Northern Bahr el Ghazal State. The vehicles were unable to move and we almost ran out of food. But luckily we were able to get the convoy moving again and reach our destination safely.”
“Doing humanitarian work in an impoverished country like South Sudan is very challenging,” he concludes.