South Sudan: the tragedy of health care ravaged by misery
By Francesca Sabatinelli - Nyang
South Sudan is paying the price of its youth. The country, which celebrates 11 years of independence from Khartoum on 9 July, is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped in the world.
It’s where more weapons than food are traded and infrastructure that is necessary for the very survival of its own people does not exist. Healthcare is one of the nation's most dramatic challenges, and in many remote regions, even basic facilities are almost non-existent.
Local people face daily emergencies, such as the current risk of a new cholera epidemic, following the news, two months ago, of an outbreak in Unity State in the Bentiu Camp for Displaced Persons, one of the venues Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, is scheduled to visit on 6 July.
The risk has now spread to neighboring Lakes State, where the infection is likely to arrive together with the many displaced persons on the move. At the Government Health Center in Nyang, Yirol East County, a vaccination campaign is to kick off next week, supported by a massive information campaign.
A desperate plea for help and support
The 19 health workers at the Nyang Center, supported by Doctors with Africa CUAMM, are increasingly worried about the people, dozens of kilometers away, who will be very difficult to reach.
Remoteness from health centers represents one of the most critical aspects of the problem, as it is often inevitably the reason for the lack of prevention and early intervention efforts.
Like in Thian, in the same county, where the only existing health facility is so dilapidated, children are not vaccinated and any small physical problem can lead to death.
Another serious concern regards the lack of staff as a growing population places a heavy burden on the few workers present in Nyang, imposing impossible shifts.
"There is need for help and support," pleads Dr. Abraham Taban, a County Health Officer who adds snakebites to the list of illnesses such as cholera, diarrhea, pneumonia and HIV, all of them deadly realities for the people of South Sudan.
A never-ending emergency
The Health Center in Nyang is engaged in a perpetual emergency. In addition to receiving 80 to 120 outpatients a day, malnourished children are taken into its wards, prenatal and birth care, support for HIV patients and vaccinations are provided. All this is done without adequate drugs or space for beds.
Robert Chekata, CUAMM's health coordinator in Yirol East, highlights the impact of international events on South Sudan's problems.
"The war in Ukraine has repercussions on the delivery of food by the World Food Programme to the people who are hospitalized at the Nyang center. It’s the only food they get if their families cannot provide. And right now there are malnourished patients here. This is just one of the many challenges we face."