South Sudan: Life-saving surgery for victims of fighting

By International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, March 14, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Continuing violence in South Sudan has left thousands wounded. Many of them risk death, as the unstable situation stops them getting medical treatment. Since the beginning of the crisis, the ICRC has performed nearly 1,200 operations.

"The situation is tense and unpredictable, and humanitarian needs in South Sudan remain immense," said Melker Mabeck, ICRC head of delegation in South Sudan. "Some people are unable to obtain medical care quickly enough because they are afraid of being attacked and killed. And we continue to be worried about reports of attacks on patients in several places and the destruction of health facilities."

The ICRC continues to remind the parties to the conflict of their obligation to ensure that the injured have access to health facilities and that medical personnel and humanitarian workers can carry out their duties. "People taking part in the fighting must not damage property, facilities or vehicles associated with medical and humanitarian work," Mr Mabeck emphasized. "Such damage is a clear violation of international humanitarian law."

"It often takes days or even weeks before a casualty reaches a medical facility," explained Kerry Page, ICRC health coordinator. "Many die of wounds that they could have survived, simply because they are unable to obtain treatment in time."

To treat the increasing numbers of people injured by the conflict that started in December, the ICRC has deployed several mobile surgical teams of surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses. The teams work in hospitals and remote medical facilities and there are currently four of them in the country.

Saving lives in extreme conditions

"Our colleagues have been working around the clock, saving lives in hospitals, remote health facilities and a camp for displaced persons, often working in extreme conditions," said Ms Page. Surgical teams have been deployed to Bentiu Hospital, Leer Hospital, Malakal Teaching Hospital, Nasser, Ayod, Old Fangak and other locations. Teams continue to operate at Juba Military Hospital and are treating at least dozens of wounded patients at a camp for displaced persons in Malakal.

The ICRC has delivered medicines and specialist medical supplies to hospitals, first-aid stations, triage centres and many health facilities around the country, enabling them to treat thousands of additional casualties. South Sudan Red Cross volunteers have been supporting the ICRC, performing first aid, dressing wounds and assisting medical staff.

Activities around the country

ICRC teams are working in all 10 states of South Sudan, including remote areas in the regions most badly affected by the violence such as Bor, Awerial County, northern Jonglei, Mayendit, Malakal, Rokon (Central Equatoria) and Twic County (Warrap state), helping the victims of the violence and identifying the most urgent humanitarian needs. ICRC personnel regularly visit Minkamen and Waat, to help people fleeing the fighting in Jonglei and Upper Nile states.

The ICRC works side-by-side with the South Sudan Red Cross. Its response is complemented by the activities of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and a number of Red Cross Societies from other countries.

Since the beginning of the crisis, working in cooperation with the South Sudan Red Cross, the ICRC has:

• provided clean water for nearly 80,000 people in Juba, Western, Central and East Equatoria, Malakal and Bentiu;

• provided food for nearly 117,500 people in Wau, Bentiu, Juba, Minkamen, Malakal and Twic County (Warrap state);

• provided tents and tarpaulins, giving emergency shelter to over 24,000 displaced persons in Juba;

• provided basic household items (including cooking kits, emergency shelter materials, jerrycans and blankets) for over 213,000 people;

• provided fishing kits for nearly 17,000 people in Awerial County;

• visited over 1,800 detainees in various places of detention;

• facilitated more than 3,750 phone calls, enabling IDPs to re-establish contact with their relatives;

• registered 28 children who had become separated from their families.