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Healthcare

Watching South Sudan's Decline

Watching South Sudan's Decline

Every time I arrive in Juba, there is visible change. The city sprawls further and further; from the air, a patchwork of metal roof-tops in primary colours, where once stood straw-roofed *tukuls*. Since my last visit, in January, the land around Juba has transformed into a thick, lush green, nurtured by the rains from the …

On Hornets and Health

In the Congolese village of Kiliwa, along the dusty road leading from Dungu, a lone healthcare outpost stands, scarred by fighting, with memories of the Congolese civil war, and of attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army. To get here, one passes a Congolese army checkpoint. The driver remembers when, a year ago, two soldiers were killed here during an attack by the LRA.

Etched into crumbling walls is graffiti, mixing both supplications to God and images of AK-47s, with a red sort of honey oozing out of holes, left by the hornets that buzz around what constitute the wards.

Much of the local population has left Kiliwa, having fled the area due to attacks by the LRA. And for those that remain, there is a feeling that they have been forgotten. Chronic underdevelopment coupled with near-continuous conflict has degraded the state of health centres in most parts of Haut & Bas Uélé, says an NGO working in the area. “Most clinics lack essential equipments and majority of the health professionals are not properly trained.”

When working with NGOs in the region, one often sees the “successes”: the mosquito nets being handed out, immunisations being injected into the arms of young babies, free, primary health care. But here in Kiliwa, one has a brief glimpse of what it is like away from the fleets of white Land-Cruisers.

A nurse, alcohol on his breath, pricks the finger of an elderly lady to test for malaria. In the opposite room, a lady lies on a stained, bare mattress, a dressing on her leg from an infection brought on following treatment in the centre.

A sense of a people forgotten, or ignored, by their government. The ones who stayed behind.

Soon, the Land-Cruisers will be coming, to provide free health care to “the vulnerable”, and to train health professionals. But that can only ever be a short-term fix. It will help some, but the authorities running the country need to remember who they work for.

In the cross-fire

In the cross-fire 

 Elizabeth* sits next to her two year old daughter in the Bethesda hospital in Goma. Elizabeth was collecting firewood in the forest surrounding her home last April, when she was caught between two armed groups; a stray bullet hit her in the leg. She scrambled through the forest to the place where she had left her one-month old baby. For the past eight months, Elizabeth has been in this hospital, while her leg heals. She will never be able to walk properly again, and worries about the future of her children. 

  * Name changed

In the cross-fire

Elizabeth* sits next to her two year old daughter in the Bethesda hospital in Goma. Elizabeth was collecting firewood in the forest surrounding her home last April, when she was caught between two armed groups; a stray bullet hit her in the leg. She scrambled through the forest to the place where she had left her one-month old baby. For the past eight months, Elizabeth has been in this hospital, while her leg heals. She will never be able to walk properly again, and worries about the future of her children.

* Name changed

When bombs fall on villages

A boy sits on a bed surrounded by mosquito nets in a medical facility in Sudan’s Nuba mountains. Sudanese Armed Forces have been bombing the region for several weeks, the fallout of disputed elections in South Kordofan State. In this ward, all are civilians, and around this boy lay the injuries caused by these bombs. Others lie beneath the soil of their villages.

Sixteen year old Winassa Steven, a student from Kurchi, was hit by a bomb fragment last Sunday (26 June) whilst washing clothes at the water pump in Um Dorain when her village was bombed by a Sudanese Armed Forces Antonov bomber.

Four year old Jacomo Tia Jibril lost his hand and half of his forearm as a result of the bombing of his village of Kurchi by Sudanese Armed Forces fifteen days ago. He was washing clothes at the only borehole in the village when the bombs fell.

Ten year old Mursila Timas has an injured thumb and infection, risking the amputation of her hand. She has also had one foot amputated, and the other is seriously injured after bombing by Sudanese Armed Forces of her village in the Nuba mountains.

Viviana Issa lies in a bed at a medical facility in Sudan’s Nuba mountains. “I don’t know what to do with this girl” says the only doctor in the facility. She is leaking spinal fluid, and paralysed from the chest down after her spinal cord was severed by a bomb fragment hit her in the neck, breaking vertebrae. The bombing also killed two of her siblings.

Caught in the Crossfire

Caught in the crossfire 

 Amin was hit in the neck by a stray bullet in Mogadishu’s Waberi district, forty-three days ago. He hasn’t been able to eat since then, and so is taking fluids through a pipe in his nose. At nine years old, Amin has spent his whole youth surrounded by war. 

 Amin’s case is far from unique in Mogadishu’s Madina hospital. Nearly everyone I spoke to there had been injured by a stray bullet, as the Islamic militia group Al-Shabab battles the Transitional Federal Government forces and pro-government militia. 

 “Ninety-five percent of our patients are from combat” says Mohamed Yousef Hassan, the director of the hospital and chief surgeon. “Day by day, the situation in Mogadishu is worsening.” 

 The hospital is under-staffed and under-equipped. Patients line the corridors, attended to by family members. Just a few kilometres away, the front-line stands, breeding more casualties and dead.

Caught in the crossfire

Amin was hit in the neck by a stray bullet in Mogadishu’s Waberi district, forty-three days ago. He hasn’t been able to eat since then, and so is taking fluids through a pipe in his nose. At nine years old, Amin has spent his whole youth surrounded by war.

Amin’s case is far from unique in Mogadishu’s Madina hospital. Nearly everyone I spoke to there had been injured by a stray bullet, as the Islamic militia group Al-Shabab battles the Transitional Federal Government forces and pro-government militia.

“Ninety-five percent of our patients are from combat” says Mohamed Yousef Hassan, the director of the hospital and chief surgeon. “Day by day, the situation in Mogadishu is worsening.”

The hospital is under-staffed and under-equipped. Patients line the corridors, attended to by family members. Just a few kilometres away, the front-line stands, breeding more casualties and dead.