Following three separate security incidents in one of its remote healthcare clinics, international emergency medical aid organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been forced to suspend all activities in Gumuruk, Jonglei State.
MSF is calling on all armed groups, community members and political parties in Southern Sudan to respect the neutrality of MSF medical staff, activities and facilities, so that lifesaving aid can be urgently delivered to people in need.
“Attacks on our staff and clinics prevent us from providing essential medical aid. These incidents are totally unacceptable as they stop us from accessing patients and put our staff at risk,” said Rob Mulder, MSF Head of Mission in Southern Sudan.
In Jonglei State, MSF runs a primary healthcare centre in Pibor town, and two smaller outreach clinics in more remote areas, Lekwongole and Gumuruk, which are only accessible by plane or boat during the current rainy season.
On July 1 an armed group entered Gumuruk clinic, stealing boxes of Plumpy Nut, a peanut-based food needed to treat severely malnourished children. Three days later, July 4, Plumpy Nut was again stolen, in addition to medical equipment. Then, on July 27, while travelling by boat from Pibor to Gumuruk, four MSF staff members were violently robbed by armed men.
“Though we are fully committed to providing emergency medical aid to Gumuruk community, we have been left with no other choice than to suspend all medical activities in this outreach clinic,” added Mulder.
The Gumuruk outreach clinic serves a population of more than 30,000 people, providing basic medical care, including general consultations, treatment for malnutrition, ante-natal care and vaccinations. Complex medical cases requiring hospitalisation are referred to MSF’s bigger clinic in Pibor, from where serious cases in need of surgery are evacuated by MSF plane to hospitals in Boma, or in the capital, Juba.
“More than 160 malnourished children were receiving treatment in our Gumuruk clinic. In addition, there were up to 20 new cases of severely malnourished children each week. Unless access to this community improves, it is impossible to evacuate those who need hospitalisation or surgery, including women with obstructed labour, children with cerebral malaria or severe anaemia who need blood transfusions,” said Gbane Mahama, MSF Medical Coordinator for Southern Sudan.
Apart from a small Ministry of Health facility in Pibor town, MSF is the only primary healthcare provider in this part of Jonglei State, home to around 150,000 people, where villages are separated by large distances and roads are often impassable.
MSF continues its medical work in other parts of Jonglei State and southern Sudan. MSF runs clinics and hospitals across ten Sudanese states, including Warrap, Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity, Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal, Western Equatoria, Central Equatoria, the transitional area of Abyei, Red Sea, Al-Gedaref and North Darfur.