South Sudan: CARE Staff Swing into Action at Clinic Amid Fighting in Bentiu
BENTIU, South Sudan – CARE’s daily routine in Bentiu, South Sudan was interrupted by fighting this week, but project coordinator Rose Ejuru found plenty to do. She immediately changed roles, reverting to her medical training as a nurse to help tend several hundred patients who flowed into the clinic located inside the town’s UN compound.
“We must have received 200 wounded. They filled the clinic and then we started putting them in the conference room. There are patients everywhere,” Ms. Ejuru said. “So far we have not lost anybody.”
“During the fighting it was really intense, but we put on protective gear and we kept on working,” she added, noted that the patients have included a three-year-old who was wounded and a 10-year-old boy who was shot twice, with one of the bullets shattering a bone in his leg. The fighting started on Sunday and lasted for several days, ending with the Unity State capital once again changing hands. South Sudan erupted in political violence in mid-December of last year and more than one million people have since had to flee their homes. A quarter million people have abandoned the world’s newest country altogether, taking up refugee status in neighboring nations.
CARE has been providing nutritional support and basic health care in Bentiu since before the current crisis began and currently is supporting operations inside the UN Mission (UNMISS) Protection of Civilians area and in mobile clinics that have operated in Bentiu town. A CARE supported clinic next to CARE’s compound in Rubkona, just across the river from Bentiu, is out of services after both facilities were damaged and looted when the fighting started in December.
Nationwide, CARE has provided tens of thousands of people affected by the conflict with water and sanitation services, medical care and nutrition and protection services. We have especially targeted women and girls, who have borne the brunt of the crisis while scrambling to keep their children out of harm’s way. Now with the rainy season getting started and much of South Sudan’s markets and livelihoods disrupted, humanitarian actors are hurrying to pre-position supplies in the face of a looming food crisis.
Four days after the most recent fighting in Bentiu, Ms. Ejuru was able to get a few hours of sleep and said she felt refreshed after being able to take a rudimentary shower. “We have been doing triage, attending to the worst injured patients, those with head and abdominal wounds and those with multiple gunshot wounds,” Ms. Ejuru said. She said there were still many patients to treat and headed back to work along with three other CARE nurses and four CARE clinical officers, all of whom have been pressed into service attending to the wounded.
“Rose immediately took action caring for the most critically wounded, struggling to keep them alive while they await medevac to a hospital in the national capital, Juba, or the arrival of a mobile surgical team,” said area program coordinator Benson Wakoli. “Our clinical officers and nurses have focused on treating life-threatening injuries and significantly augmented the clinic’s capacity.”
“This teamwork has saved many lives,” he added. “Our Rose has been the Nightingale of the clinic.”
Written by Dan Adler