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08-07-2012 | Africa

Struggle for health care in world's newest nation

ENG

As South Sudan celebrates its first year of independence (9 July 2012) fighting continues in parts of the country and the wounded and sick struggle to get treatment and access to basic health-care . Becoming the world's newest country has not brought an end to years of armed conflict. An ill-defined border as well as internal ethnic tension quickly triggers fighting.

Nyataba Lam Keat was caught up in the recent ethnic fighting in Akobo.

"A raider from Gatjook came from his village. He killed a man and shot me. I stayed lying down while another woman ran to another village where there were soldiers. I laid my daughter, who was breastfeeding, on my chest. The raider then speared the man next to me, but forgot about me and left. After a while the soldiers came and rescued me."

In Keat's village, there is a small clinic where minor wounds can be treated, but for major wounds, patients may be flown to Malakal ....if they are lucky. Keat lost her leg in the attack and it then took her 3 days to get to Malakal hospital.

For a population of nearly 9 million people, there are only 120 medical doctors and just over 100 registered nurses. Vulnerable groups like women, children and the wounded are particularly at risk: South Sudan records the highest maternal mortality in the world.

The ICRC has been working in Malakal hospital for one year and has seen the situation deteriorate. Hospital admissions are up 30 to 40 % compared to 12 months ago, and with an even greater increase over the past three months. The medical team also say patients are are arriving in a much worse condition.

The ICRC surgical team in Malakal Teaching Hospital performed emergency surgery on more than 750 patients in the past year. Over half the patients treated suffered from weapon-related injuries.

Nyataba Lam Keat is a mother of 2 and believes this is why her life was spared. "God saved me because I have small children and one older one," she says.

She is determined that her role as a mother won't be affected: "As long as I am alive I will be with them. I will be given some crutches so I can sit with them. They won't sit with another woman."

Over 2,000 physically disabled people received treatment through ICRC-supported physical rehabilitation services. More than 400 artificial limbs were fitted for amputees, while hundreds of orthotic devices, wheelchairs, crutches and sticks were also delivered. Just over 1,000 patients also benefited from physiotherapy services

Keat says: "When my leg is better, I will learn how to walk again, and then I'll go back home to Akobo."

Facts & Figures 2012:

  • An estimated 50,000 people are physically disabled in South Sudan. Many of these people became physically disabled as a result of the armed conflict.
  • Over 2,000 physically disabled people received treatment through ICRC-supported physical rehabilitation services. More than 400 artificial limbs were fitted for amputees, while hundreds of orthotic devices, wheelchairs and crutches and sticks were also delivered. Just over 1,000 patients also benefited from physiotherapy services
  • Approximately 30% of the amputees to whom the ICRC has delivered artificial limbs since 2008 were victims of landmine accidents.
Duration : 3m 27s
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On Screen Credit: ICRC or logo

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