17 July 2013, Juba, South Sudan - Escalating intercommunal clashes have left an unknown number of dead and injured in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, where Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams have treated hundreds of wounded and are attempting to reach thousands hiding in the bush.
Prior to these clashes, south Jonglei was also the scene of violent conflict between the South Sudan Army (SPLA) and the David Yau Yau armed militia group, which forced an estimated 120,000 people to flee into the bush of Pibor county.
Surgical teams from MSF and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been providing emergency care to patients arriving from Manyabol in the hospital in Bor since 14 July.
“We are currently treating, with the support of the Ministry of Health, 176 wounded, including 128 with gunshot wounds, and so far we’ve performed 34 surgical interventions. We are expecting more,” said MSF head of mission Raphael Gorgeu. “Our next priority is to ensure that patients in need of post-operative care and follow-up are flown to our larger MSF projects in Lankien, Nasir and Leer. Seven have already been moved.”
Another MSF emergency team is attempting to reach the tens of thousands of people who are hiding in unsafe swamp areas, where malaria is rife, and who have no access to safe drinking water, food or medical care. Today, an MSF team is being dispatched to an area south of Pibor town to provide first aid and assess additional emergency medical needs.
“People are afraid to seek medical care in towns so it is essential for us to come to where they are so that all those in need can access treatment,” said John Tzanos, head of the MSF team in Pibor county. Earlier this month, the team assessed other areas and set up a small clinic in Boma town, the scene of intense fighting. MSF also continues to run a primary health post in Gumuruk, which is now the only healthcare facility in the county after MSF’s hospital in Pibor town was targeted and destroyed in May.
“This coordination between MSF and the ICRC has been instrumental in scaling up the response to the growing medical humanitarian needs on all sides,” adds Gorgeu. “At the same time, we realise the levels of assistance are far below the needs of the population in many areas. MSF teams will keep doing all they can to provide impartial assistance to all people in need, regardless of which side of the conflict they may be.”
Local authorities have granted access to the injured, but reaching the remaining wounded is still extremely difficult on all sides. The high level of insecurity in these remote locations, coupled with the start of the rainy season, makes it difficult to land aircraft.
The levels of assistance remain far below the needs of the population in many areas. MSF is still extremely concerned about the impact the current violence could have on the local population and urges all parties to respect and facilitate the deployment of humanitarian assistance all over Jonglei state.
MSF has been working in Jonglei state since 1993. MSF provides primary and secondary healthcare through its health centres in Pibor, Uror and Nyirol counties, as well as emergency medical care when required in response to outbreaks of violence. In 2012, MSF provided 130,692 outpatient consultations in Jonglei state.