South Sudan: Testimonies, December 2011
Robert Mungai Maina, MSF Clinical Officer, aged 37 (interviewed Dec 6, 2011)
- Working with MSF for the past five months in South Sudan, assigned to the emergency team working in Doro for the past week
- He is a Clinical Officer with eight years professional experience, from Kenya
“Many of the patients that we see in our clinic have respiratory diseases. This is because most of the refugees are sleeping outside without anything to cover themselves.
And there are many patients with diarrhoeal diseases because for the past weeks there were no latrines and there is not enough water. Today we had four cases of bloody diarrhoea and many more cases of watery diarrhoea.
We are also seeing malnourished children, some with moderate and some with severe malnutrition. They don’t come with any particular complaint. You have to spot them. The child might come with diarrhoea or a cough but the mother will not say to you, “this child is malnourished.” So we do the MUAC test, the criterion that we use for detecting malnutrition in children. We measure their middle upper left arm using a measuring tape with a coloured scale.
Yesterday I did a consultation with a mother who had one-year-old twins, both coughing and with fever. They both had severe malnutrition. She is still breastfeeding but doesn’t have enough milk because she’s not feeding herself well. She is just eating sorghum mixed with hot water to make a porridge, which is carbohydrates, nothing else.
We started both of the twins on specially formulated therapeutic food and one of them, who has frequent diarrhoea, we started on ORS (oral rehydration) and zinc sulphate. We told the mother to come back after four days to collect more of the therapeutic food for the twins. We need to monitor them very closely. She is living alone in the camp with the twins and four other children.
This crisis is really bad. These people tell us that they are desperate. For some, it’s been three weeks that they have been walking here, sleeping outside, having nothing to eat. Children, women, men. We have gone around the camp and we estimate about 30 percent are children under five. Mostly it’s women and children who are in dire need of very basic things. We’re here to provide healthcare, but with our water and sanitation team we are also digging latrines, preparing to supply water, trying to meet the immediate needs.
I try my level best to do what I can do for them. Those who are sick, we take care of them and do the follow-up to make sure they get the right treatment. I tell them to come back any time they have a medical problem. That’s what we are here to do.”
33-year-old man (interviewed in Doro camp Dec 7, 2011)
- Used to be a Community Health Worker with an NGO in Blue Nile State
- Spent 10 years in a refugee camp in Ethiopia during Sudan’s civil war, returned home in 2005, now registered as a refugee again
“The journey here was very hard for us. It was so far. For me and my family it took about one week and a half to come here to Doro. Our small children could not walk far. My wife and our 11-year-old each carried the twins, who are one year old, on their backs. I was carrying our food and belongings. The others – who are aged nine, seven and four – had to walk by themselves. The four-year-old can walk, but after a while he started crying.
When we were on the way, the children were very hungry. Some of them were sick with diarrhoea. The sun was hot. We drank water that was not clean. But we managed to reach this camp.
Every day we started our journey early in the morning. We would walk for four hours at a time, then rest under a tree. If the children could not walk any more, we stayed there overnight. They would have a bit to eat and start playing. You could see their faces change suddenly when we told them it was time to start walking again. They knew they would be tired and they started crying. If they were okay to keep walking, we would go for another four hours. We were always looking for places where we could find water.
My children would ask me, “Where are we going?” They wanted to go home. I told them we were running away from the war. We needed to get to a safe place.
Here there are a lot of problems facing us. We are just staying here because of security; we think we will be safe here.
This place is very cold at night. We light a fire because we have no sheets or blankets.
The only water is the hand pump for the local people from the area. There are many of us coming and we have to share the water together with the local people here.
Sometimes my wife goes to the water pump first thing in the morning and only comes back in the evening with water. It can take up to 12 hours to wait, from early in the morning to late at night. If she were to leave, she would lose her place in the line.
People here know MSF is giving health care to them by opening this clinic. If MSF hadn’t come, they could have suffered more. You hear people talking about how it is good that this clinic is helping them.
I just want to tell the world we need help, a lot of help, from them. We came to a place where we can be secure, but food security is now replacing the other security problem that we ran from. I will stay here until our home place has peace. But I worry that we may be here for a long time.”